Official: FC Cincinnati names Albright GM

FC Cincinnati has named Philadelphia Union technical director Chris Albright as its new general manager. Photo provided by FC Cincinnati.

FC Cincinnati announced Monday the club has hired former Philadelphia Union technical director Chris Albright as its new general manager, effective immediately.

Albright visited a game at TQL Stadium on Sept. 11, a win against Toronto FC, and the parties reached an agreement last week. The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio also reported that Albright is expected to bring assistant technical director Kyle McCarthy with him as a technical director, but that was not a part of Monday’s announcement.

Cincinnati has been searching for a general manager to replace Gerard Nijkamp, after he was fired Aug. 6, but Albright, 42, will be the club’s first in that position with Major League Soccer experience. His arrival with Cincinnati comes a week after the club fired coach Jaap Stam, which provides Albright a clean slate to make his own hire.

Albright is scheduled to be introduced in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“Our search for our next general manager was extensive,” FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said in a press release. “Our new GM was going to be someone who knew what was required to win in Major League Soccer, experience that was non-negotiable. Delivering on that requirement, we are delighted to have found the best person for the job.”

Albright has served as the Union’s technical director since June 2014 after earning a quick promotion from assistant six months following his hire. He had just retired as an MLS player in October 2013, but he quickly earned respect from his peers and now has become the target of multiple clubs for a general manager position.

The three-time former MLS All-Star defender helped the Union to the 2020 Supporters’ Shield title and assisted in developing a well-regarded academy that once included U.S. men’s national team players Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie. Aaronson was sold to FC Salzburg on a transfer fee that could reach as high as $9 million with incentives, a record for a U.S.-based homegrown player in MLS.

“Chris’ experience in Major League Soccer and his track record of success are impressive,” said Managing Owner and CEO Carl H. Lindner III. “His ambitious, energetic character is emblematic of the type of leader we sought to bring in. We are thrilled to have him lead our soccer organization, and we are confident that he will fulfill our goals and help make Cincinnati a championship city.”

Albright, who won three MLS Cup championships as a player, also was a candidate for the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes GM jobs, according to The Athletic. The outside interest was no surprise to Union coach Jim Curtin, according to a Sept. 23 interview he did with Philadelphia media.

“I’ve said it time and time again: He’s the best at what he does in our league, you know, in terms of navigating the cap, finding incredible talent for the team to use,” Curtin said, according to an excerpt published on Twitter by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tannenwald. “He’s as good as it gets. And a team like Cincinnati, a team like San Jose, whoever are searching for GMs out there, would be foolish not to have him be the No. 1 guy, because he’s ready to do it. He’s capable.

“Selfishly, I want him to stay here in Philly because we’re very close, and I love how he works and he’s incredible at what he does. But yeah, at a certain point, when people are great at what they do, other teams start to notice that. And Chris is the best in the league, for my money, doing that. Between him and Ernst working together, it’s been great. I’ve been lucky.”

Albright will report to Berding and oversee all soccer-related areas, including roster management; salary cap budgeting and administration; player scouting and acquisition; oversight of the coaching staff, sports performance staff and medical staff; youth development and academy programs, and more.

He will have his work cut out for him in Cincinnati, which dropped to last place Wednesday with a loss to Toronto FC, but he will have the financial backing and flexibility to rebuild. In the firing of Stam, the club also relieved assistants Said Bakkati and Yoann Damet of their duties so Albright will be able to bring in a full new staff. Only goalkeepers coach Jack Stern remains.

“It’s an honor to be the general manager of FC Cincinnati,” Albright said. “This is a club with incredible supporters, top-of-the-league facilities and resources, and a hunger for success. I would like to thank Carl [H. Lindner III], Meg Whitman and the ownership, as well as Jeff and everyone who has trusted me to lead this club to achieve the goals we have set. I am committed to bringing all my knowledge and experience to the table to make FC Cincinnati a championship club. I look forward to meeting the team, the staff and all of the fans, and I can’t wait to get started.”

FC Cincinnati’s roster budget this year, totaling $15.5 million when the MLSPA data was released in April, ranks fifth in MLS, but Albright will have to get creative with his roster build. The club has 12 players whose contracts will be expiring after this season, but most of those are backups or individuals who weren’t expected to be major contributors in the future. Most of the highest paid players are on long-term deals.

Albright is taking control of the sporting side of a club that finished last its first two seasons in the league and could be headed for another wooden spoon in 2021. The Orange and Blue were sitting in 10th in the Eastern Conference table back when Nijkamp departed, after the team had gone 7-20-10 under his watch, which began in May 2019.

Nijkamp hired two head coaches, starting with Ron Jans in 2019 and Stam in May 2020. Albright will be hiring the team’s fourth head coach in MLS and fifth in six years overall. Two interim coaches have served the club as well, including Damet twice and now U-19 academy coach Tyrone Marshall, who said Wednesday he was interested in the full-time job. He currently is set to become the U-23 coach next year in MLS 2.

Marshall was a teammates with Albright when both played for the L.A. Galaxy from 2002 to 2007.

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