FC Cincinnati made a number of key changes to their roster over the winter, the first major chance GM Gerard Nijkamp had to put his stamp on the roster he inherited little more than a year ago.
Just as all other MLS clubs are experiencing in 2020, it's been difficult to properly evaluate how those offseason alterations have taken root. Cincinnati have played just six games, scattered between early March and the MLS is Back Tournament last month.
Designated Player Jurgen Locadia and key attacker Siem de Jong have each made just one start. Center back Tom Pettersson has started twice, while DP forward Yuya Kubo (six starts) has had the most run, but that still isn't a representative sample size. New boss Jaap Stam only coached four of the games, without a preseason nor friendly matches to instill his tactics and and vision in the squad. As a result, Cincy won't move hastily during the recently-opened transfer window just for the sake of making changes.
“We must not do things in a rush, it’s just six games," Nijkamp told media on a video conference call Thursday.
Of course, that doesn't mean they're not working on ways to improve the team.
“Every window is a possibility to improve the roster, but we need roster spots. We need international spots," Nijkamp said. "We’re working closely with some players on green cards. At this moment … we don’t have an international roster spot. That is the challenge.”
Nijkamp and Stam discussed where the squad could use some improvements. Stam prefers his squad be able to play multiple formations — they played 4-3-3 and then 5-3-2 at the MLS is Back Tournament — so versatility is key, as Cincy are focused on defensive additions, fast wingers and midfielders.
“We can use some extra players in defense, not for depth but to be a starter," Nijkamp said."To get competition on that part. We can also use some players on the wings, but those are difficult to add. … In the midfield, we have a lot of players but we need some different types than what he have now."
Cincy have been most strongly linked with English free agent defender Tyler Blackett, formerly of Reading in the English Championship. There have also been rumors linking the club with German World Cup winner Mario Gotze, while club president Jeff Berding signaled a willingness to spend this summer.
Just finishing up @cincysoccertalk podcast from last night with @jeffberding. Good questions from @BryanWeigel about the transfer window and club's willingness to invest more $$ during a pandemic. Berding's responses were pretty solid, something fans will want to hear.— Laurel Pfahler (@LaurelPfahler) August 11, 2020
“We try to improve but we know what we have," Nijkamp said. "The rumors are there, that means we’re not sitting still on our chair. We’re really busy to get players in.”
Still, Nijkamp preached patience and looked to lower expectations for the summer transfer window. They are in the infancy of the Stam era, while a number of key players haven't had a chance to find their footing yet. The club are eager to analyze further as the season continues, starting next Friday against D.C. United.
“We did a good job in the winter," Nijkamp said. "We showed some parts in Orlando, so in the basics, we are good. That is something the fans can expect from us, that we’ll build on this foundation.”