When Should You Panic About FC Cincinnati's Roster?
I've seen you out there. FC Cincinnati fans on Facebook wondering why this team is bothering bringing in a veteran goalkeeper when what we really need is a midfielder. I've seen you on discord, wondering when Njikamp is going to sign that name you heard mentioned on a podcast one time. I've even see you on Twitter, fretting about other teams singing all the best players leaving nothing but the scraps for your beloved Orange and Blue.
And I want to be clear, I'm not a cheerleader for FCC's General Manager Gerrard Njikamp or Head Coach Jaap Stam, I think 2020 was a really poor showing for both of them. And I will be happy to skewer them in 2021 if results go the same way.
But right now? January 3rd? Now is not the time to be cynical.
There is plenty of time for deals to be done and new players to be signed to this team. In fact, with the owners scrapping the CBA and Covid-19 still very much a thing, there isn't even a start date to the season! Plenty of time for the club to be wheeling and dealing to improve the roster.
And lord knows this roster is in need of upgrading. In fact in its current state, I struggle to think of a single player from FCC that would walk into the starting XI of an MLS playoff team last season. There is plenty of work to be done and you'd be foolish to think Njikamp and company are done recruiting.
And credit where credit is due a few of you out there were really ready to grab the pitchforks before Ronald Matarrita was brought onboard, and that seems to have calmed some nerves. That now makes three players this offseason FCC has brought in that are clear upgrades over the players they're replacing. But why on earth am I seeing some of our fans acting like the team is done making moves?
There is still the MLS Super Draft, which usually isn't full of amazing talent, but can be the source of young players on Generation Adidas contracts. Frankie Amaya was one of those players. Young talented college players with contracts that don't count against the salary cap for three years. Yeah, that'd be good depth for this team.
And now that we're into January the international transfer window is open. I know a lot of people want deals to have already been worked out before the window opens, but it doesn't always work that way. Here's an example:
Manchester United seems interested in Jadon Sancho from Dortmund. Let's assume they acquire him. Then Dortmund will need to replace Sancho and let's say they sign Milot Rashica from Werder Bremen. Well then Bremen will need to sign a new player and let's assume the sign Adam Hlozek, a stud from Sparta Praha. Ok now assume Sancho stays put. Well then that whole cascade of player shuffling doesn't happen and FC Cincinnati would be free to sign Adam Hlozek as a young DP.
That right there is why the international window matters. Because big teams buying and selling at the top of the food chain have ripple effects up and down the soccer system in Europe and the world. So while FCC might have targets in Europe, it's going to depend on others teams shopping around for players to determine who is actually available.
To be clear the above situation is totally fictional and I have no reason to believe any of these teams, including FC Cincinnati, are interested in these players.
And similarly, MLS teams are in a similar situation with each other. There are deals being worked out using MLS's unique rules like GAM and international roster spots that determine how exactly deals will shake out. Teams are trading draft spots, GAM, international roster spots, and packaging them together to trade for better players.
And how many MLS teams do you see out there with complete rosters already? Sure there's a rumor for this team here and a decent Central American being signed there, but nobody has a fully fleshed out roster right now. So relax. There's a ton of time and a ton of options right now for Cincinnati. Now isn't the time to be panicking.
So when should you panic? The second week of training camp.
That's about when the vast majority of the roster will be set. Moves can still be made after that point, and they likely will be, but the core of the team will be set by then. And that's when you can judge the team on paper.
Because that's all you can do at that point. Jurgen Locadia looked like one of the best signings in MLS last off-season. At the end of the year he looked like one of the worst. All we can do in training camp is judge how the team looks on paper. And if you don't like the team then, then go moan and whinge on social media. But until then, even if you don't have confidence in the GM, hold off on the cynicism.