FC Cincinnati freed up space for new signings during the summer transfer window, but the deadline passed overnight and just two spots were filled.
Even coach Jaap Stam sounded disappointed more couldn’t have been done to address the lack of depth in the roster that has led to few substitutions and little rotation in recent weeks.
After completing a trade to acquire New York Red Bulls midfielder/winger Florian Valot following Wednesday’s match in New Jersey, FCC added former Nottingham Forest defender Tyler Blackett on a contract through 2022 and Thursday, but that completed business for the transfer window.
Asked if he felt like he got what he needed to make a playoff push in the second half of the season, which begins following Saturday’s match against Orlando, Stam said “that’s a very difficult question.” While he doesn’t pick the players or sign anyone, he does have some input.
“The thing is basically Florian (Valot) came in late,” Stam said. “We had a long time, I think as well, to bring players in. Did I get what I needed? What I’ve asked for? No, it’s not always easy, I understand that as well, but it’s not how it went and that’s my opinion.”
A source indicated there are no other moves expected before the end of the season, although free agents that do not require an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) could still be signed before the Sept. 15 roster freeze.
Stam did say he is focused on the group he has to work with and remains positive about the effort and work rate of the players on the team.
“I need to and that’s what I always try to do, I need to focus on the group,” Stam said. “And I’m always focusing on the group and to get the best out of the players, individuals and out of the team. But that’s my job. That’s what I’m doing. That’s how I’m performing. But there’s also for me focus on other things, and yeah, that keeps you busy at times as well. You’re always adding things, you’re always talking about certain things and of course, it’s not always up to me and what’s being decided or what’s going to happen.”
To make room for potential signings, FCC had mutually agreed to a contract termination with center back Tom Pettersson, who had fallen to the back of the depth chart, and loans were concluded with forwards Jurgen Locadia and Franko Kovacevic – Locadia’s ending after the final game in June and Kovacevic recently departing after his loan had been extended short-term.
Those moves freed up three senior roster spots and three international spots.
Valot will take up a senior spot but has his green card. He got his first session with the full squad Friday at Mercy Health Training Center and a session with the non-starters Thursday.
“We always discuss, of course, with others in what we need to do, and Flo is a player who can play in different positions,” Stam said. “So we’re always looking, that’s what I address. We’re always looking for players that maybe can add something to the team, that can make a difference in certain positions. Flo can play in different positions, he can play up top, he can play in the midfield. So that’s a good thing, as well. He’s got quick feet, you know, technically well-skilled as well. So, it’s important to have these players within the roster, where you can mix things up and change things at times.”
Blackett had been one who previously was on the team’s radar and nearly signed last summer as a free agent following four years at Reading FC, where he played two seasons under Stam, but FCC did not have an open international spot available at the time and he ended up signing with Nottingham Forest.
Although now Blackett is working back from groin surgery, FCC added him on Thursday with an additional option for 2023 built into the deal. Stam said his understanding is that Blackett is recovering well but it will take some time for his work visa to come through anyway so his start with the club will be delay regardless.
Stam said the club’s interest in Blackett wasn’t just because of his past experience coaching him or playing with him – Blackett had been in Manchester United’s system since age 8 and prior to joining Reading in 2016.
“I’ve worked with him, I played with him, but it’s not always that I need to bring in or we want to bring in players that I’ve worked with,” Stam said. “So that’s not the issue. That’s not the case. It’s also what’s available at times as well, or what we have on the list that we can bring in, what we can do as a team. He is available, he’s the type of player that he’s very versatile and where we can play in the backline, playing multiple positions. He’s athletic, he’s quick, he’s fast, good personality, but he still needs to show himself as well, when it’s all done or when he’s coming over. So for the club, I think he’s an interesting player, but he still needs to show of course himself and what he needs to do and what he can do, because there’s competition, that’s what we want and we rely on, we need to have competition and players who are versatile in doing things as well. And that’s what he can do. But again, you know, he was available to bring in but also, it’s not always like a thing for me to say, ‘OK, I want especially him.’”
While depth still remains a concern, FCC does have three players working back from injury with right back Zico Bailey appearing the closest to a return to the field following surgery in June to repair a hip entrapment. He joined the full squad for training earlier this week.
Rookie winger Calvin Harris (meniscus) is still doing individual work but appearing to ramp up the intensity, while defender Maikel van der Werff hasn’t appeared much outside during the media portions of training, which is limited to the first 15 minutes. Coach Jaap Stam has indicated he is still a ways away from a return because of setbacks he faced earlier in the recovery from sports hernia.
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