CINCINNATI, Ohio – Four days after a heavy opening-day defeat to the Seattle Sounders, FC Cincinnati added what could be a game-changing piece to their roster, as midfielder Kenny Saief joined on loan from RSC Anderlecht in Belgium.
Saief’s arrival was announced on Wednesday, just hours before a season ticket member event at a local brewery. The US international mingled with the crowd, shook hands and signed autographs just a day after arriving from Belgium.
“I didn’t believe it was going to happen,” said Saief. “But in life everything is possible. I talked to Luke [Sassano, FC Cincinnati’s technical director] and he told me about the ambitions of the club. It interested me, and something inside me said this is the right place to be.”
Saief fits the profile of several players acquired during FC Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS roster build. The 25-year-old has significant European experience, but fell out of favor at his current club and comes to Cincinnati with something to prove. Leo Bertone, Mathieu Deplagne, Przemysław Tyton, Kekuta Manneh, and Caleb Stanko all share a similar story.
Head coach Alan Koch explains that Saief adds something to the team that was missing.
“We’ve only played one game,” Koch explained. “But if you assess that game we were missing quite a lot. Kenny is just a very skilled player. He’s comfortable on the ball. He can create something out of nothing. He’s very versatile as well. We can play him as a left back or as a left midfielder. We can even play him inside as an attacking midfielder.”
Some tipped Saief to step into a central playmaking role for Koch’s squad, especially after Fanendo Adi expressed concerns about the team’s attacking options. However, in his first day of training, Saief spent part of the session with the defensive group.
Both Saief and left back Greg Garza are veterans of the US national team, although they have never represented the team at the same time. Saief, who returned to his parents' native Israel at age three, earned four senior caps for the US in 2017 and 2018.
Garza welcomed Saief’s addition after FC Cincinnati’s Thursday training session.
“He’s a great player. I have a friend, Andy Najar, that was at Anderlecht, and another friend that played with me, Renato Neto, at Lisbon. He played with Kenny at Gent. It’s a small world of football and you’re able to speak to all those people and learn little things about that person and who he is on the field. You could see from the very first day that there’s a lot of talent there, so we’re very excited to have him here.”
Saief will look to settle quickly and could be available to participate in Sunday’s match against Atlanta United (5 pm ET | ESPN in US; TSN4 in Canada) according to Koch.
On playing his club soccer for Cincinnati, in the country of his birth, for the first time, Saief said it was, “Amazing, amazing. I just love the US. Every time I come here it feels always great. The people are so welcoming, so it’s always nice to be here.”