FC Cincinnati - group photo - Fanendo Adi - Fatai Alashe
USA Today Sports

FC Cincinnati leaders hail Adi, Alashe as "the foundation" of MLS squad

CINCINNATI -- FC Cincinnati made a splash with their first two signings as the expansion club begins building the roster for their inaugural Major League Soccer season in 2019.

Cincinnati acquired Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi in exchange for $450,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and $400,000 in MLS Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) and signed midfielder Fatai Alashe from the San Jose Earthquakes. Alashe will play on loan for the remainder of the 2018 USL season, and FC Cincinnati obtained his MLS rights in exchanged for $60,000 in TAM and $75,000 in GAM.

“Fanendo and Fatai are tremendous ambassadors both on the field and off the field also in the community,” Cincinnati owner Carl Lindner III said during a press conference introducing the players on Monday. “We’re pleased that these two players are the foundation as we begin to shape the inaugural MLS team in both performance and character.”

A 6-foot-4 forward who hails from Lagos, Nigeria, but is a permanent US resident, Adi will occupy a domestic roster spot – in addition to a Designated Player spot – on Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS roster. He and Alashe will finish out the year helping FCC make a run at the USL title, as the Orange and Blue currently lead the Eastern Conference by eight points.

The move was an emotional one for Adi, who originally came to Portland in May 2014 as a Designated Player on loan from FC Copenhagen.

Adi scored 54 goals in 126 games over four-plus seasons in Portland and tallied three goals and two assists in 14 appearances this season. He struggled some under new coach Giovanni Savarese and hasn’t started a game since June 9, but FCC hopes to rekindle the talent that accounted for two 16-goal seasons and one 10-goal campaign during his tenure with the Timbers.

“I had a lot of tears on the plane ride because luckily we had WiFi and I was looking at my Twitter and I saw lots of write-ups and videos, and I shed a lot of tears,” Adi said. “It’s very emotional. Of course, it will take me maybe a few weeks to get over the whole thing with Portland because Portland is part of my family now. I’ve been there four years, and I left a legacy there to start something new. It’s beautiful but some beautiful things have to come to an end and I’m ready for this next chapter.”

San Jose selected Alashe with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft after a four-year career at Michigan State. The Northfield, Mich., product had been on FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch’s radar when he was responsible for the Vancouver Whitecaps' draft in 2015 but San Jose took him before he could fall to Vancouver, Koch said.

Alashe made 85 appearances with 69 starts over three-plus seasons for the Earthquakes, scoring five goals and adding three assists, and he was a regular on the US Under-23 national team during its last cycle ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games. This season, Alashe made 12 appearances – including two starts – for San Jose.

“For me it’s just a good opportunity to start something new and be part of something special going on in this city,” Alashe said. “I could see it Day 1 when I got here. … [For FC Cincinnati] to bring us in here to be one of the first pieces is really humbling.”