FC Cincinnati names former Manchester United defender as new coach

FC Cincinnati fans in the Bailey cheer on their team during their 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal game against New York Red Bulls Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati Campus in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
FC Cincinnati fans in the Bailey cheer on their team during their 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal game against New York Red Bulls Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati Campus in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

FC Cincinnati is staying Dutch. The second-year Major League Soccer club has tapped former Feyenoord manager and ex-Manchester United defender Jaap Stam as its new coach.

The club announced Thursday that Stam has been hired on an 18-month contract to replace Ron Jans, who resigned in February amid an investigation into a racial slur he admitted to using in front of players in the locker room.

Stam is Gerard Nijkamp’s second hire since becoming FCC’s general manager last May, and he is the club’s third permanent coach in 13 months and its fourth head coach since Alan Koch replaced John Harkes during the 2017 preseason. Jans, who was hired in August, resigned less than two weeks before the start of this season and assistant Yoann Damet has been serving as interim head coach, a role he served for nearly three months after the firing of Koch 11 games into FCC’s inaugural MLS season.

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“We are very happy and pleased to have Jaap Stam become FC Cincinnati’s new head coach,” FC Cincinnati General Manager Gerard Nijkamp said in a news release. “He has an extensive background in being part of some of the most successful clubs in the world as a player and has also proven that he can guide teams through transitionary periods as a head coach.

“I strongly believe that Jaap can lead us through our next phase, to our new stadium (in 2021), and help us achieve our goals in the future, making players better and bringing his knowledge and experience inside the club. 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, 47, is best known for his incredible success during his 15-year playing career. An intimidating force at center back, he played for several Dutch clubs before moving to Manchester United in 1998, where he won three Premier League titles, and he finished his playing career with stints at Lazio, Milan and Ajax. He is considered one of the best defenders to come out of The Netherlands.

As a manager, Stam is 54-47-32 (W-L-D) since 2016, but he hasn’t coached anywhere for two full seasons. After a stint at English side Reading during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns, Stam joined up with Nijkamp as Zwolle’s manager in December 2018, but Stam left for Feyenoord in March 2019 and eventually resigned in October.

“For myself, to get the opportunity to work in America and to work in MLS for a club like FC Cincinnati, it’s a dream,” Stam said in the team release. “…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.”

Nijkamp indicated on a conference call with local media in April he was looking at three candidates, but he confirmed last week that L.A. Galaxy assistant Dominic Kinnear was no longer a candidate. The third candidate remained unnamed.

While Nijkamp said he was comfortable with Damet handling things in the short-term, FCC had some extra motivation to make a hire with MLS recently submitting a proposal on how to resume play by July. According to the Washington Post, the league is hoping to play a tournament format with all 26 teams quarantined in Orlando and playing behind closed doors at the Disney sports complex. Training is expected to begin as early as June 1 when the league’s moratorium on team workouts is expected to be lifted.

Nijkamp did not want to discuss the proposal in detail until MLS has announces a firm plan but said he wasn’t pressured by the potential fast-approaching startup date.

“I feel very confident in the club also that we have Yoann as our interim coach, so the pressure is not on that part,” Nijkamp said last week. “We will still have a good preseason with him if that’s what it looks like, but of course, if you appoint a head coach, you want him as soon as possible in your country so he can start with the group.”

Stam is awaiting the receipt of his work visa before he can join the club in Cincinnati or wherever they are training by the time he arrives. The U.S. is not currently permitting most travelers from Europe, but according to the CDC, there are some exceptions to be made.

The club will introduce Stam in an online news conference Friday morning.