Mailbag 9.1.21: Looking at FC Cincinnati’s roster with new GM on horizon

Hell was Real again for FC Cincinnati fans on Friday, but reinforcements are here with the arrival of defender Tyler Blackett and newly signed midfielder Kyle Scott. They’re both training individually at Mercy Health Training Center for now and will be working toward match fitness to be available as soon as possible.

FCC plays host to Inter Miami on Saturday and is still looking for its first win at TQL Stadium. I’ll have more on the new players in the coming days and the usual leadup to matchday coverage but in the meantime, I answered questions from fans for another mailbag.

Matt K.: With the roster what it is, what are some surprise roster cuts you could see happening with a new GM coming in this next season?

Well, considering the team has three wins this season and two last-place finishes, I don’t think any cut would be surprising. Everyone will be evaluated and their contract and how it fits the budget will be scrutinized by an MLS-experienced GM.

According to my records, there are eight or nine senior roster players whose contracts will expire this season, including Haris Medunjanin, Joe Gyau, Caleb Stanko, Przemyslaw Tyton, Nick Hagglund, Edgar Castillo, Gustavo Vallecilla (whose loan ends but includes a contract purchase option that very well could be picked up), Maikel van der Werff and possibly Florian Valot (his contract carried over from RBNY and terms haven’t been confirmed). Some of those players have options for 2022 but the new GM will have his or her own ideas about all of them, so I wouldn’t say any of them are locks to return. Kenneth Vermeer is under contract through 2022 and will jump back to the senior roster next year, but I could see Tyton moving on with reported interest back in Poland so I think Vermeer is back. With about a dozen senior roster players under contract for 2022 (and some beyond), it will be difficult to see major roster shakeup among the regular contributors now.

I think it’s clear there are too many guys making around the $1 million-plus range that are eating up too much TAM and that will be something the new GM will need to sort. Kamohelo Mokotjo, Allan Cruz and Yuya Kubo are all in that ballpark and I would be surprised if the new GM doesn’t go get a new designated player, so Kubo will be going back to TAM level. I would say at least two could be in consideration for a move out or buyout, but then again, I don’t think that would be a surprise to anyone. Moving on from Kubo would be the biggest surprise of those three as someone who has contributed and grown into his role this season.

I do plan to do more on the state of the roster in the near future.

Joel R.: I have been watching from the sidelines the Vermeer vs Tyton social media debate and to me they both have serious faults. Do you think signing a new starting GK should be one of the offseason priorities and any inside knowledge of the front office thinking on this?

Yes, I think even if Vermeer was expected to be the starting goalkeeper still in 2022 the team would be looking for another potential starter to compete with or even beat him out for that job. I don’t expect both Vermeer and Tyton back, but Vermeer most likely will as he is on contract for 2022. He was a late add out of concern that Tyton might not be able to stay healthy, and that certainly is a position that could be upgraded. It will be interesting to see how the staff evaluates Ben Lundt now that he is back but I still think he’s going to be a backup if his 2022 option is picked up.

Mike Prentiss: When Scott and Blackett are game-fit and Calvin Harris is fully healthy, do you expect Stam to (1) make more than 2 or 3 subs per game and (2) use some subs earlier, or is it just a larger group of guys fighting for a small pool of minutes off the bench?

I fully expect more substitutions and rotation earlier in games going forward. We’ve already seen Stam pull from the bench earlier in these last two games than he had been and he’s pointed out that it will be necessary to better manage playing time over the course of the second half of the season. Brenner, Lucho Acosta and Geoff Cameron have been playing a lot of minutes and will need breaks and those three guys you mentioned are players that could slide into those spots.

It definitely helps Stam to have more depth and different players to choose from. I think Scott and Blackett are starting caliber players once they are ready, and Harris could be a good option for more rotation on the wings.

Derek S.: I may have missed this but is it even possible for Clayton to sign here? Is there any truth to that rumor?

For those not familiar, it was rumored that FC Cincinnati was in “advanced negotiations” with Brazilian striker Clayton da Silveira da Silva (known simply as Clayton). However, a top club source said there was no truth to that rumor. Even if there was interest, FCC does not have a senior spot open with Scott taking the last one, unless Joe Gyau goes on the injured list. Even then, Maikel van der Werff is still on that list and potentially coming back at some point, though that appears a long way off as he’s only been training individually recently and this week hasn’t even been outside during the media portion of training sessions. There is room on the supplemental roster but Calvin Harris appears ready for a return, which would take up the ninth and final international spot. It is possible he could be loaned out, but that didn’t seem to be in the plans earlier this year and Stam seems to want him as an option with rotation needed more now.

An agent who deals with several Brazilian players indicated that many players there are now interested in trying to come to Cincinnati since Brenner was signed. Perhaps Clayton has interest but FCC already has been telling agents there isn’t any more room this year.

T.W.: In the past few games it seems to me that Kubo has been making a lot of errant passes resulting in a loss of possession or killing potential counters. Do you think his transition to more of a defensive role has impacted his overall sharpness?

Kubo makes a mix of some really good passes but also a lot that just don’t get over a defender’s head or through the lanes (I think those struggles have been more noticeable in the last two games), but I don’t think it’s a matter of his defensive role impacting his sharpness. I think it’s more that he’s just trying to make different types of passes and from a different position on the field than what he was used to prior to this year.

I still think he’s improved greatly as a midfielder in terms of playing better defense, tackling and being smarter about fouls, but distribution isn’t his strongest asset and that’s something he and the team have been working on to prevent turnovers.

A.C.: What is the team’s objective from now until the end of the season? Number of points? Number of wins? Quality of play? Playing the subs? I believe that having a goal to shoot helps to energize the team. I wonder if we have a vision and a target for the remaining of the season. (Hopefully the goal is not “Avoid wooden spoon!”)

The players still want to push for the playoffs and at least two of them have mentioned the 2016 Seattle team as a model for what’s possible (Seattle had 17 points through the first 17 games, like FCC, and made a run to win the the MLS Cup) but Stam very much manages expectations and prefers to look at each game individually so the focus remains on improving day to day, week to week. I wish I could give you a more specific goal but it’s just not something they talk about in those terms. Stam does look at quality of play and is always seeking progress in the overall body of work on the field and it’s why he stays so positive still – because he does see improvements in that regard – but he won’t even talk about the goal of the playoffs.

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