FC Cincinnati still looking to add to roster through free agency

The summer transfer window closed last week, but FC Cincinnati is still looking to add players before the MLS roster freeze Sept. 15.

Teams still have the ability to sign free agents who don’t require an International Transfer Certificate to be registered within a transfer window, and FCC already is exploring that route with free agent right back Chris Duvall now training with the team on a trial basis.

Duvall, a 29-year-old American, played 10 games for Portland last year after finishing the 2019 campaign with OKC Energy FC, where he signed after getting waived by the Houston Dynamo. He began his MLS career in 2014 with the New York Red Bulls, appearing in 59 league games in three seasons before he was traded to Montreal, where he played the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Since then, he’s played for four teams in two years, but his contract option was declined by Portland following the 2020 season.

“Of course, we’re still looking to add,” FCC coach Jaap Stam said before Duvall was spotted at training Thursday. “The only thing is that it depends on the budget as well, and you cannot do a lot at times as well, and of course, what’s available and also of course the type of player we’re looking at, if this particular player is available for us as well and does he have the right profile for us to add to the roster, and that’s what we’re looking at and that’s what we’re trying to achieve and still hoping to do that as well. And there are players of course that yeah, you can say okay, these players are still available. They also excite you at times as well. But are they willing to come for a certain amount of money as well?”

The club has received inquiries from free agents at other positions as well, but Duvall would give the team a true right back, as Zico Bailey continues to work back from hip surgery to repair an entrapped nerve.

Joe Gyau spent the first 14 matches out of his natural position to fill the right back spot but recently moved to left wing, while center back Nick Hagglund slid outside. Stam said Gyau can still play right back but his positioning in part depends on who is available at the winger spots and what the team needs on the back line based on the opponent.

“We need to make choices so that’s an important one in who can give us most going forward and being a threat,” Stam said. “Who is being more consistent in doing this as well? If we then need to make choices are we going to be using Joe, or are we going to be using other players in that position as well. And then of course, as a right back what team are we facing? Do we need to play Joe in that position? Or do we need to play Nick in that position? Or maybe even Zico? Or maybe even somebody else? So I’m still considering Joe over there, because I think he’s done a good job, and he can bring us something extra going forward, as well.”

Rookie Calvin Harris could be an option at left wing in the near future, as he continues individual drills and works back to full-team activities following June surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He is starting to get integrated more but FCC also needs to make sure he still fits into the roster, if any other players are coming in.

FCC has one senior spot, two supplemental spots and one reserve spot open currently and one international spot, which Harris – a supplemental roster player – would require.

“We know the ability of Calvin and what he can bring to the game, as well what he’s been doing in the training sessions, which is very important,” Stam said. “You’re also of course, when you have your roster set in a certain way and when you need to bring in a player, then you of course, need to look at that particular player: Okay, what does he bring extra or different than the other players that were already having? And that’s an important one because it’s no use when you have a player like Calvin, a winger who can add something with his pace, with his agility, with this technique as well, to add a player who’s got less, or who’s got the same. So you always need to make the right choices then. Okay, what can we do? What is available? What do we need to do? Do we need to have maybe more numbers because of the amount of games that we’re going to be facing within the next couple of months as well? Yeah, so that’s how we look at the roster, also at the players that are still available maybe for us, and also the players that are out now like Zico and Calvin. And okay, when they’re fit, you know, do we then still need to bring in certain players?”

With the departure of general manager Gerard Nijkamp on Friday, Stam said he will play a bigger role in the acquisition of players.

He’s always been able to provide input, but director of scouting Hunter Freeman is tasked now with trying to help provide Stam a more complete roster. Stam noted last week displeasure the club only brought in two new players during the summer window and wasn’t able to do more sooner.

“Of course, I’m being involved now a bit more as well in getting some players in but the issue now of course is that now after the window you have limited choices in what you can do and where to go,” Stam said. “So, for now we’re like in talks together with Hunter and Jeff (Berding), of course, as well, in what we can do and what we can add, and we need to make the right choice in doing so.”

Berding said Friday in his press conference to discuss Nijkamp’s departure the club is still focused on trying to make the playoffs this season, but Stam’s future could depend on his ability to get the Orange and Blue there or at least in contention.

Asked if Nijkamp’s departure leads him to think more about his own future with the club, Stam said that is something he would be thinking about anyway. His contract expires in December.

“As a coach, you’re always thinking about your future, when Gerard’s over here, but also, now when he’s gone,” Stam said. “You’re always thinking about what to do. You’re looking towards the future, how you see the future as well. That’s about the team, it’s about with family reasons, that’s about everything so that at the end of the day, that’s how it works as a coach as well. So, you think a lot about other people. Sometimes you need to think about yourself as well.”

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