FC Cincinnati coverage

Since the club’s introductory press conference in 2015, to the most recent full-time whistle, I’ve covered FC Cincinnati for four seasons for both the Cincinnati Enquirer and FCC’s team website.

The following stories were written in 2019 during the club’s first season in Major League Soccer.



Exploring Gerard Nijkamp’s legacy at PEC Zwolle and future at FCC

ron and gerard
Provided by PEC Zwolle.

ZWOLLE, The Netherlands – Gerard Nijkamp grabs his keys, smiles and jangles them in the air.

“Thursday is my last day and I give my keys to the president,” Nijkamp said. “Then, it’s finished at PEC Zwolle.”

Thursday was still two days away, and there was more work to accomplish. For starters, the MLS summer transfer window opened that morning, and Zwolle hosts POAK Thessaloniki FC in a preseason friendly that night.

The next day, the team would announce a new summer signing. The following day – Nijkamp’s last – would end in him, yes, giving his keys to club chairman Adriaan Visser, but the club giving him a send-off ceremony in return.

“From one side, I’m very happy and positive and I have big energy to build something on the other side of the ocean,” Nijkamp said. “Then on the other side, I feel a bit sad because I give my child away…There’s a little grieving.

“There will be some tears coming on Thursday, but I think that is only good when you are working very close with each other.”

This story originally ran July 31, 2019 for fccincinnati.com. (Continue reading here.)



The rapid and remarkable rise of Yoann Damet

Provided by FC Cincinnati.

Yoann Damet said it bluntly:

“I’m honest with myself. Saying it is normal to be there now would be a lie.”

Damet is an assistant coach at FC Cincinnati, where he’s been the last three seasons. At a club constantly changing, he’s been somewhat of a constant.

Every training session, he’s led the team through drills and exercises. His French accent echoes around the field – and it becoming easier to understand.

Roughly a month after Head Coach Alan Koch replaced John Harkes in February 2017, Damet was brought in as Koch’s assistant. He’d just turned 27 and had been working with the Montreal Impact as the head coach of their Under-18 team.

Last month, Damet celebrated his 29th birthday. Of all 105 head or assistant coaches in MLS, that makes him the youngest. (Goalkeeper Coach Jack Stern is second-youngest at 30.)

But what’s more significant beyond age is this:

Damet is one of only two coaches in MLS who didn’t play soccer collegiately or with at least minor professional experience. The other coach used to oversee Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia.

The Frenchman got to this point by studying the sport through education – through classes and a university degree.

“In sports there is a lot of place for former professional players, like in coaching staffs,” Damet said. “If you don’t come through that path, it’s more difficult.

“Being there at my age, I consider myself as lucky, but I also worked very hard to be there. I had to work my way up. For sure, I’m looking at the situation and I’m enjoying myself because long term it was the plan to be where I am.

“But on short term, I was not expecting that to happen that quickly.”

This story originally ran April 4, 2019 for fccincinnati.com. (Continue reading here.)



A win, a turning point and unbridled hope

Provided by FC Cincinnati.

As Spencer Richey dove onto the ball deep into stoppage time, fans erupted into scenes of excitement, euphoria and relief.

It was a moment that would have seemed impossible 15 minutes earlier. Then, FC Cincinnati were leading 3-0 against the Houston Dynamo and were closing in on a first win since May 11 – and first clean sheet since March 24.

But after Houston scored twice in two minutes (the 79th and 81st minutes), and what once felt like a delightful summer night was free falling into a nightmare.

Panic set in – not on the field, but in the stands.

When Nick Hagglund unluckily scored into his own net, Nippert Stadium sounded hollow, as if everyone was either numbed or in shock.

So, what followed from that were the most important minutes of FC Cincinnati’s year to date, and what felt like the moments that will be the turning point of the season.

This story originally ran July 6, 2019 for fccincinnati.com. (Continue reading here.)



Manneh shows attacking quality in Portland win

Provided by FC Cincinnati.

In FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 win against the Portland Timbers on Sunday, the club delivered a high-quality performance that showed defensive mettle and a free-flowing attack that delighted a sold-out Nippert Stadium. If this is FCC’s identity in MLS, it’ll surely be an entertaining one.

Much of that entertainment came from Kekuta Manneh.

Anticipation built every time Manneh touched the ball. When there was open space, he took it. When there wasn’t, he tried creating it.

“That’s how I like to play,” he said. “I like to get on the ball, run with the ball and try to make things happen, create space for my teammates. That’s my game. I like to get moving and keep moving. I don’t like to stand still.”

No singular moment summarized his style. Rather, throughout the match, he took advantage of the opportunities he received and, in turn, punished Portland.

This story originally ran June 16, 2019 for fccincinnati.com. (Continue reading here.)



Ulloa finds success as a new father, with new team

Provided by FC Cincinnati.

In a two-day span six months ago, everything changed for Victor Ulloa.

The first change was a professional one. On Dec. 12, he joined FC Cincinnati in a trade from FC Dallas. But the move was more than a routine one between two MLS clubs. For Ulloa, coming to Cincinnati meant leaving the only club he’d ever played for – in the city where he grew up.

That was the easy move, actually.

The next day, on Dec. 13, Ulloa became a father.

“My wife sometimes tells me that was the trigger, because he came early,” Ulloa joked earlier in the season about the trade jumpstarting the birth of their son, Luca.

This past, Thursday, Luca turned six months old. On Sunday, Ulloa celebrates Father’s Day as a dad for the first time. Of course, that also means he’s been in Cincinnati for six months, too.

In reality, that’s a short period of time. But for a player at a young club who’s transitioning into two new roles, it’s a small milestone on a meaningful weekend.

This story originally ran June 16, 2019 for fccincinnati.com. (Continue reading here.)


FCC in the classroom: How players navigate an MLS season and late-night studying

Provided by FC Cincinnati.

Corben Bone stared silently at his laptop as frenzy swirled around him.

Kickoff was imminent, and people were preparing for the home finale. For Bone, who’s nursing a hip injury, his preparation usually includes joining teammates in the locker room. Not this particular Sunday, however.

Instead, the central midfielder quietly sat with his head lowered and continued doing the last thing anyone else in the stadium was thinking about: homework.

While journalists waited around in the press box for Sunday’s game to start, Bone sat alone four rooms away and did schoolwork for his journalism class.

This story originally ran Oct. 3, 2019 for fccincinnati.com. (Continue reading here)



Team with the fans SOC
FC Cincinnati vs Portland Timbers 3/17/2019 Photographer:Brett Hansbauer/4th Floor Creative

The Night at Nippert no one will forget

FC Cincinnati began at a high-top table and with five wooden chairs inside Jeff Berding’s kitchen. Future dreams and goals were written on a legal pad.

Sunday night, the club played its MLS home opener before a sold-out crowd. Only four years separated the start to now.

Everything the Orange and Blue – and most importantly, the fans – have achieved is simply remarkable. That the club continues to outdo itself reiterates how far soccer has come in this city.

But Sunday night was at its peak.

For years, dreams were about MLS nights at Nippert Stadium. One finally happened ­– and was better than anyone could’ve hoped for.

This story originally ran March 18, 2019, for fccincinnati.com. (Continue reading here)