Tuesday was a long day for FC Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch and general manager Jeff Berding. It was an even longer day for their phones, constantly buzzing as they crunched to make decisions, and get agreements over the line, at the 2018 MLS Expansion Draft.
But, after five draft selections, a few trades, and a lot more negotiations either in the works or discussions that came close to a deal, FC Cincy's inaugural MLS roster continues to materialize. It wasn't without a little drama, of course.
"There were only a few exciting players that fit the model, the salary cap and all the different variables for us to go and choose," Koch said Tuesday on a media call. "We went through a roller coaster of emotions with negotiations and conversations."
At the end of that roller coaster, with twists, turns and excitement, they walked away with a handful of players who will ostensibly slip right in with their core. FCC selected Darren Mattocks, Eric Alexander and Hassan Ndam, the rights to Roland Lamah as well as Kei Kamara, who they flipped to the Colorado Rapids for an international roster spot. During the draft, Koch broke the news that the club acquired Greg Garza from Atlanta United for a bundle of $450,000 of allocation money.
The roster spot collected in the Kamara trade was earmarked to acquire Vancouver Whitecaps wantaway center back Kendall Waston, a move confirmed hours later. They will also reportedly acquire FC Dallas midfielder Victor Ulloa. It was a busy day for the expansion side, which started with drafting Mattocks with their first expansion pick.
"Very, very excited," Koch admitted about Mattocks and Adi sharing the field. "I think the beauty of Fanendo and Darren are they have completely different profiles. They're guys we can play together, and are very familiar with each other, so we're excited to bring in Darren. To have both of those guys, the different types of players at our disposal is going to give us a lot of flexibility in terms of how we play."
Mattocks isn't the only player the club are excited to have acquired. They made Ndam, a 20-year-old Cameroonian youth international center back from the New York Red Bulls, their final selection and are ecstatic with his potential.
"The thing that stands out is that he is hungry to be apart of the first team, and we've offered him a pathway to becoming a key contributor and to realize his dream," Berding said. "When we spoke, we talked about working together. We're going to push him and work him very hard, but we'll give him an opportunity to realize his ambitions."
Ndam will be one of the youngest members of the first team and his youth is key for a club that is yet to institute an academy.
"At FC Cincinnati we don't have an academy from Day One, to have an opportunity to have Hassan to be our first young player in our system, with the experience, hunger and talent he brings with him, he's a key centerpiece for us to build around when we think about young players in the future," Berding said. "For him, the future gets to be right away."
The future is right away for the league's 24th club. In a few short months, they'll be lining up for their first MLS match. Tuesday was just another checkpoint the club passed to prepare for that day, which will kick off a season that is sure to be another roller coaster of emotions.