(Image: FC Cincinnati)
In this final addition of “Inside Preseason” for 2021, Coach Jaap Stam was able to give media a lot of insight on the roster build. He also gave them a smile! For the legendary hard nosed tough man, to be smiling at the end of preseason must be a good sign. This has been Stam’s first preseason at all with the club, and when you look at the additions the club has made, you will probably smile as well. The club looks to have improved leaps and bounds... on paper. Coach Stam gives us some insight on whether to expect the team to also be improved on the pitch.
After a strange year last year, are you looking forward to a more normal season?
”Yes, I’m very much looking forward. Hopefully we can have a good season in terms of playing games and playing in the staduim with fans. That gives an extra dimension to the game, and it makes it more interesting for everybody.”
“Yeah last season was totally different in terms of a strange experience but i think everybody in the league, all the teams, how they dealt with that situation, they‘ve done a great job. Hopefully now it’s returning to normal.”
Knowing that it’s a long season and the club may not need to win right out of the gate, What he would like to see out of the team early this season, at least in the first few games.
“I’d like to see a win to be honest. He chuckled. “And i know what you mean in terms of having time to work on your team, to work on your shape, and how we want to play. When I look back at the other leagues that I’ve been in, it’s a little bit similar in terms of... yeah the start of the season is still a little bit part of the preseason in terms of bringing players in and changing things, but eventually you need to go to that consistency of performing and of winning games as much as you can.”
“For us, in this process of building the team, making choices and getting some other players in as well, it is quite important that we get some results. It gives that extra bit of belief to the players.“
On how he feels about the state of the roster right now and what he would say was his main take away from his first proper preseason with the club.
“The roster is looking better of course, we’re happy with that.“
”Yeah, the roster we still need to work on like I said before. After last season we made choices in what way to go to. Which players that needed to go out and players that needed to come in with the quality need within the team to make a change as well. Continuously we’re working on that, still we’re hoping to add some players because we need to have that completed roster set with players that can challenge each other.“
“The roster is looking better of course, we’re happy with that. Still, we’re hoping to make some changes, I think everyone in the club is working very hard to do that. As a coaching staff and the players as well, we can see that there is a change being made.“
On Nashville being allowed 40% capacity and thus a larger crowd being in a Football stadium and if he has spoken with his players on dealing with the atmosphere of a full stadium after a season with no fans in the stands.
”As a coach you‘re always looking to help out and have an impact.“
“I haven’t spoken to them about the atmosphere. The players know what they can expect. Also sometimes, and I’ve had it in my career as well, when you have a big stadium and it’s not even half full, there still feels like there’s not enough people. I’m very glad for Nashville and for us that we can play with fans, it’s a very positive thing, we’re looking forward to it.”
“I told the players that we as coaches are not there on the pitch to tell them what to do. They know from the sessions what they need to do, so they need to communicate on the pitch what to expect from each other. That’s what you’re hoping for, that players will do that and can do that. Still, as a coach you‘re always looking to help out and have an impact. That’s what I’ll be doing on Saturday as well, but hopefully they can do that themselves.”
On what he expects from Nashville and how he thinks his team can match up with them.
Nashville is known as a strong defensive team that looks for goals on the counter. That being said, Stam said that FCC will be more concerned about what they are doing themselves. “We don’t need to match up with them. We need to play our game and we need to do well in what we expect from ourselves as a team. Of course we are very much aware of what they can do. Hopefully, we can prevent them from doing what they want to do and we can play our own game so we come out on top.”
On if he has decided his starting eleven or if it still has some tinkering to be done.
“For the team that’s going to be starting, for myself what I‘m looking for is balance on and off the ball.”
”No, I think everybody knows what players are going to start. That was already quite clear not only this week but also before. It takes time to work on things, so it’s something that you start early when going towards your first eleven. That doesn’t mean always mean that they are the best players. You’re looking for partnerships, for players that work together. For the team that’s going to be starting, for myself what I‘m looking for is balance on an off the ball.”
Coach Stam gave an injury update on Jurgen Locadia and if he may have a chance to play on Saturday.
“He’s been training with the team. Today’s session went well. We need to have a look again tomorrow and see if he had a reaction to today’s session. If not, he’s going to join into tomorrow’s session. If he feels well after tomorrow, I’m going to make the choice to maybe take him to Nashville.”
Coach Stam was asked about the newest additions, Winger Isaac Atanga and Center back Gustavo Vallecilla and if he had an update on when they may arrive and when they could start integrating with the team.
“I think Isaac is very close, so he’s going to come over in a certain number of days hopefully. I don’t know exactly. Hopefully it will be quick. Gustavo is going to take a little bit longer.“ Stam spoke about the new players obtaining their Visa’s. “From what I’ve heard, they’re working with the people who make those decisions. Hopefully within a couple of weeks that’s going to be done.“
On how trialist Franko Kovacevic has done and if he may be signed to the roster.
“That’s the thing I need to say is that Franko is injured at the moment. He’s not with the squad, he’s out. So we need to assess is injury and how long that’s going to take.” Not good news for a player trying out for a team. That being said, Stam had plenty of positive things to say about Franko’s play prior to his injury.
“We know what to expect from him when he’s fit and what he can bring to the roster.“
“But what we’ve seen of him, he’s a very positive guy. He has a lot of stamina, he goes forward and he works very hard. On the ball he has the ability to make a change, especially in the transition game. So we know what to expect from him when he’s fit and what he can bring to the roster. Now he‘s got an injury so we need to see what we can do with him.”
Luciano Acosta has already played much of a season with Atlas in Liga MX. Stam spoke to how he plans on managing his play in terms of keeping him fresh and able to play what will be more than a normal season in length.
”I expect Luciano to play every game basically. He said with a smile.
“No, he is the type of player that we all know what he can bring, the opposition knows that as well. Of course we need to have a look at what we can do with him in terms of time and the amount of games he needs to rest. But he’s feeling well, he’s feeling good, he’s fit. But we’re on top of it, we know how to deal with these situations. It’s a very positive thing that we have him within the group.”
(Image: FC Cincinnati)
Joe Gyau also gave some time to the media after training today. This preseason has been different for Gyau as he has transitioned to a new position. Joe, having been a winger for years, has moved to Right Back. The move was most likely due to the additions of new players at winger and that Stam felt that a player of his ability should not be buried on the depth chart. FCC’s style of play requires outside backs that are capable of being dangerous going forward in attack, a skill that Gyau has demonstrated in the past.
After a year of playing during a pandemic, are you looking forward to a more normal season?
”Yes, most definitely. It’s going to feel more like football, more like something that we‘re all used to. The atmosphere that’s created with the fans being there, everybody’s excited to get back to just a little bit of normalcy.”
On his Manager showing confidence in him having transitioned to right back and if he feels as confident in himself at the new position.
“I’m cool with it.”
“You know, I’m cool with it. I’ve played all the games in the preseason at that position. I’ve been able to make good adjustments... I’ve been playing this game a long time and I’ve been able to play multiple positions in my career, so I’m feeling good about it.“
On how Nashville’s style of counterattacking play will challenge him and the rest of the defense, and if he thinks that it will be a good test to see how he can respond to that.
“I really don’t see it as a test to see how I look at right back, I just look at it as the first game. Going out there to play and to enjoy myself. Yeah it’s going to be a little bit different starting deeper towards my own goal, but I don’t see it as a test to see how good I am at right back. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to win the first game of the season, so that’s how I’m looking at it.”
After being on this team through a tough first two seasons, Joe was asked how positive it would be for the club to get a result on Saturday.
“Man, that would be enormous. That would be great you know, to start us off on the right foot. That‘s what everybody has in mind. Everybody wants to start off well.”
“I think for the club that would also send a message to the outside, but it’s a long season and we take it one game at a time. But definitely, we want to come out with a strong opener.”
On how much the team is looking forward to playing in front of fans again.
”After playing so many games (with empty seats), I wouldn‘t say that I got completely used to it, but I kinda did at the same time. It’s going to be nice to play in front of people. We played in front of a couple fans last season in Atlanta and Columbus, but it’s definitely going to be exciting to play in front of spectators again”
Joe was asked as a veteran player, what his excitement level was being so close to the first game of the season.
“Everybody is excited to get started on the right foot.”
“Eager! Eager to get out, eager to show, eager to have a good start. You know, we took the tour of the new stadium a couple of days ago. That’s a first for me to go to a club where we have a brand new staduim being built. The first time we’ll be able to step out on that pitch, I’m really excited about that.“
”We’ve got a lot of new faces, a lot of great quality players. Everybody is excited to get started on the right foot.”
On whether the hope opener feels like a long way away due to a month long stretch of road games to start the season.
”No it doesn’t feel like that. We were able to see the progress so, definitely there are things that need to be finished up here and there but we were able to see the pitch and the locker room. I think I can speak for everyone on the squad, we were very impressed.”
Finally, Joe spoke about what kind of statement the team wants to open the season with this year. Especally after two poor seasons, opening a new stadium and trying to turn over a new leaf.
”We want to come out with a strong statement. A strong home opener. You know, the past couple seasons haven’t been up to par, everybody knows that. Now coming out, this is a new season and it’s a chance for us to show a new side of ourselves, a new face. I think we’re going to do that, we‘ve had a good preseason and everyone’s fit. We just want to start now to try to change the face of the club, to change how people look at FC Cincinnati.”
”We want to come out with a strong statement.“
“It’ll be a good way to start it this weekend, and then pushing it towards the rest of the season. It’s gong to be a long season, they’ll be a lot of matches. Consistency will definitely be key.”
By: Rob Burkhardt