CINCINNATI — Gerard Nijkamp understands his new role as the general manager for FC Cincinnati will be one which has many moving parts.
Nijkamp is not even full-time on the job until Aug. 1 but thus far has been hands-on in helping finding a new coach after Alan Koch was fired in May. Yoann Damet has been the interim coach and while Nijkamp praised his work and admitted Damet was looked at as a candidate, he will not be considered for the permanent head coaching position.
Additionally, Nijkamp has to right the ship on a team that has been blasted on the pitch, including a 7-1 loss to Minnesota United in its last game, while falling to 3-13-2 during the expansion year. Since Koch’s ouster, the team has been 2-7, including U.S. Open Cup competition.
Nijkamp has to upgrade the roster before FCC moves into the new $250 million West End Stadium in March 2021.
At a press conference on Friday, Nijkamp opened up by acknowledging he is in contact with the current directors of the club, which includes Damet, technical director Luke Sassano, and assistant coach and director of sports performance Gary Walker.
“What I am doing at this moment is working hard with my team of directors to talk about the things happening daily but also to look forward to the future and to build the club in the philosophy and playing style and identity,” Nijkamp said.
Nijkamp went on to say that the head coaching position is his No. 1 priority.
“First the head coach search, of course is very important, is an area which is needed,” Nijkamp said. “Not because we think [Damet] is doing a bad job, but we also feel, and I feel and I see from here and from my time in Cincinnati in the match against LA that we need at this moment a caretaker, a short-term solution who can help and support [Damet] coming through this season.”
FCC has had a lot of interest in the head coaching job and Nijkamp said he has spent a lot of time whittling down the original list to seven or eight final candidates. Nijkamp said the plan was to hire a new coach on an 18-month contract, which time-wise corresponds to the opening of the new stadium.
“We do an analysis on potential coaches who can help us on the long term but also on the short term,” Nijkamp said. “We go now in the direction of the short-term solution. You have to think about this season and extension of the next season so an 18-month appointment of a head coach.”
Nijkamp didn’t release a name but mentioned he and FCC president Jeff Berding met with a candidate last week in the Netherlands and hinted negotiations are in the works.
Nijkamp said the 18-month contract plan was not the original direction but evolved as he and Berding worked their way through the list of candidates.
“At a certain moment we decided to change our procedure in way of thinking we need a person who can help us the next 1.5, or 2.5 years coming into the West End new stadium,” Nijkamp said. “We went to more of a caretaker to bring us through the season and hopefully one more season after. We changed a little bit our strategy, if you can say it like that.”
When asked if the club is limiting its options with the 18-month contract, Nijkamp said that is not the case.
“This season six months and then we will evaluate how we succeed in the goals we put on the table for him, and there on, with both sides, if we see enough potential to extend the contract another season then another 12,” Nijkamp said. “I am happy with the way [Damet] is doing his job but to appoint the new coach we all have to be convinced he is the right guy at the right moment in the right place.”
Nijkamp said he, Berding, and owner Carl Lindner III will make the final decision on the new coach. He then added that the roster is being evaluated with the hope of not only having a good starting 11 but also depth from the bench.
“We can find solutions and field a more consistent team with a more consistent roster after Aug. 8 that has more qualities and depth,” Nijkamp said, alluding to picking up players during the transition period. “What I mean by that is we can focus on our first 11 but not always the best 11 can play. You have injuries, suspensions, international break, so we need the player from 12 to 25, so that is what I mean with consistency and depth.”