FC Cincinnati and Jaap Stam: No room for mistakes

FC Cincinnati have hired Jaap Stam as their new head coach. Sadly for the Dutchman, though, after a disastrous first season in MLS, there is no room for mistakes.

FC Cincinnati have made the news official: Jaap Stam will be their new head coach. It was hardly a secret. The search has been hugely impacted by the coronavirus, with the club struggling to get managers into the facility to interview them.

Ron Jans, the former head coach, resigned in mid-February. That was three months ago. FC Cincinnati have taken their time to get the right man. But then, they had the time to take. Time, though, is not something that Stam will not enjoy.

FC Cincinnati are building in Major League Soccer. They arrived with a brilliant, raucous, large fanbase, plans for a new stadium, and the anticipation of jumping from the USL and into America’s top-flight was great. They expected to be big-time.

It never happened that way. Cincinnati struggled from the off. In fact, they produced one of the worst seasons in MLS history, fired their manager, overhauled their entire management system behind-the-scenes, which many foresaw as a problem before they started play, and built themselves a rather substantial hole to climb out of this offseason.

They started by signing three new designated players and ended by hiring Stam. General manager Gerard Nijkamp believes that Stam is now the right man to bring the team into the new era.

“I strongly believe that Jaap can lead us through our next phase, to our new stadium, and help us achieve our goals in the future, making players better and bringing his knowledge and experience inside the club,” Nijkamp said in a statement. “I have full confidence that he will be successful at FC Cincinnati and will be a great fit to carry out our established playing philosophy and guide the club to achieve future successes.”

Stam, too, said that he is looking forward to the challenge: “To get the opportunity to work for FC Cincinnati and this project by building the club – hopefully even further than where they already are, because I think they’ve already done a great job – but being a presence as a team, even more in MLS, getting results and working together with the fans and everybody already working within the club, for me it’s a big challenge to do well.”

However, for all of the positive talk, Stam will have very little margin for error once he does take to the sideline, which could still be some time away. FC Cincinnati need to be competitive in their second season in MLS. Not only after the investment they committed to the squad in the offseason; their inadequacies in their first season demand an immediate turnaround.

That is not easy for a manager who has no experience of MLS, has struggled in his last two managerial posts, resigning from both as he was unhappy with his own performance, and is arriving at a club that conducted a dramatic rebuild in the midst of a global pandemic which means he currently cannot be at the club. Stam and Nijkamp are stuck in the Netherlands.

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Stam has little room for mistakes. And he has lots of dangers to avoid. This is a very difficult job, and there is no guarantee that he has the ability to succeed.

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