It appears that Gerard Nijkamp and FC Cincinnati have found their long talked about Center back and Winger. For what seemed like months, Nijkamp has talked about the club’s need for reinforcements at Center back and Winger as a priority this offseason. Specifically a Pacey winger. The FC Cincy GM also spoke about the availability of MLS’s U-22 Rule that encourages clubs to sign younger players as they don’t cost as much towards the roster. It seems that both these reported players fit the bill.
The two players first reported by Laurel Pfahler at Queencitypress.net are 21 y/o Center back Gustavo Vallecilla, who she reports is coming via a loan from Ecuador Club SD Aucas, and 20 y/o Winger Isaac Atanga who will be a transfer from Danish club Nordsjælland. Like me, I doubt that FC Cincy fans can say that they knew anything about these players prior to Laurel’s breaking story, so lets just start with the basics.
Isaac Atanga (born 14 June 2000 in Ghana) is a 20 year old Ghanaian footballer who played as a Winger for FC Nordsjælland. Atanga, primarily a Right Winger, has 19 appearances this year for the Danish club and has tallied 4 goals. Atanga started his career in Ghana’s Right to Dream Academy before signing with FC Nordsjælland in 2018.
Gerard Nijkamp has said that he felt that the club still needed another ”Pacey” Winger.
“We have wingers that can do exciting things with the ball, but to have a winger that can run off the ball and to use their pace... we have Calvin Harris that can do it, we need another winger with that speed and pace off the ball."
If Isaac‘s highlights show us anything, it‘s that he has plenty of that desired speed. It seems like this signing is low risk and could potentially be of high reward. Atanga seems to fit a similar mold to fellow Winger Alvaro Barreal in that respect. FC Cincy seems to be stocking up on young, talented (though inexperienced) players with big upside. It’s an exciting way to build a roster.
Gustavo Vallecilla (born May 28, 1999 in Ecuador) is a 6’ 3“ and 21 y/o Ecuadorian Center back coming to FC Cincinnati on loan from Ecuador’s SD Aucas. Vallecilla is also currently a member of Ecuador’s U-23 National team.
A left footed Center back, Vallecilla has also played Left back and could be slated to provide depth for Ronald Matarrita when he is away on national duty with Costa Rica. While the club has stressed a need for a Center back, it could be that Nijkamp see’s him as more of a left back than a center back. Vallecilla’s highlights show a fast player that moves WAY up the pitch. Not unlike Matarrita in that respect. In fact, when watching these highlights I found myself thinking that he looks like the tallest Winger I’ve ever seen! It will be interesting to see how they use Gustavo. It’s still most likely that he will appear primarily as a Center back. That being said, there’s notthing wrong with signing a player that can do both. It may be that Nijkamp see’s his signing as killing two birds with one stone?
While these signing are exciting in their upside, the addition of these two young talents will require some movement in the clubs roster. Obviously, both of these players are internationals. Currently the club already has one too many international players to meet MLS roster compliance.
There are moves that the club can make that will free up those international spots however. Franko Kovacevic is on loan from Hoffenheim, and his loan is considered more of a trial. Sending Franko back to Germany would free up one spot and would seem to be the most likely move.
The addition of Atanga at Winger may also be a sign that the club may be looking to send first round Draft pick, and fellow Winger, Calvin Harris on loan. While the young British born player has shown much during preseason, the club may not want to bury him in their depth chart. That being said, as mentioned before, Nijkamp said he wanted more players with Harris’ skill set.
It will be interesting to see he how FC Cincy meets roster compliance by their first game on April 17th. Though with the signings shown so far this year, it seems that Gerard Nijkamp has learned how to navigate MLS’s roster intricacies. Provided that these signings come through, the FCC GM will have checked off every box on his preseason To-Do-List. No small feat indeed for a Club looking to go from wooden spoon to playoff contender.
By: Rob Burkhardt