CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - Pieces are beginning to fall into place for the new and improved FC Cincinnati.
The Queen City’s Major League Soccer team announced Thursday morning the hiring of their new General Manager Gerard Nijkamp.
He will be formally introduced in a press conference at the Mercy Health Training Center in Milford at 11 a.m.
Team officials say Nijkamp, 49, comes to Cincinnati after service as technical director for The Netherlands and Eredivisie club PEC Zwolle since 2012.
Nijkamp was responsible for developing PEC Zwolle’s playing philosophy and implementing it throughout the club, the team says, while also overseeing the club’s roster, scouting initiatives, youth academy and the technical, medical and football staffs.
FCC’s new GM will direct all soccer-related areas, including: roster management; roster budget and salary cap administration; player acquisition and scouting; sporting data analysis; overseeing the first-team coaching staff, sports performance and medical staffs; and the youth development program, the team says.
“I am very happy and proud to be part of the FC Cincinnati family,” Nijkamp said. “I would like to thank Carl H. Lindner III and Jeff Berding for their confidence in me and the vision I plan to bring to FCC. I will put all of my knowledge, experience and skills into building a successful club for this wonderful city. I’m looking forward to working together with our staff here to create something special for the amazing fans in Cincinnati.”
The team says Nijkamp will report to former GM and current Team President Jeff Berding, and will manage the first-team head coach, Technical Director Luke Sassano, Director of Sports Performance Gary Walker and Director of Player Development Larry Sunderland.
Nijkamp will also get a say in the selection of the club’s next head coach, they say.
While in Zwolle, the team says Nijkamp guided the club to a semifinal showing in the KNVB Cub (Dutch Cup) in his first year, before winning the cup in his second season in 2013-2014.
He also gained a UEFA Europa League berth in 2014-2015 and led the team to a Johan Cruyff Cup (Dutch Super Cup) in 2014.
Under Nijkamp, Zwolle achieved their best-ever Eredivisie finish in 2014-2015, coming in sixth, and also earned a berth in the Dutch Cup final.
Zwolle also earned finishes in the top half of their division in 2015-2016, coming in eighth, and 2017-2018, coming in ninth.
FCC President Jeff Berding released this statement about creating the stand-alone GM position and hiring Nijkamp:
“As we entered Major League Soccer, we had the fastest ramp-up in this current era of expansion, with less than 300 days compared to more than 1,000 days for the last two expansion clubs. To be ready to enter MLS under such a tight turn-around, much of our focus during the last year was on the business side of our club and building it up to meet MLS needs. As an example, we went from about 35 employees this time last year to almost 90 today. In January, we also brought on Dennis Carroll as Chief Operating Officer to help lead and manage the day-to-day MLS business operations.
“Our goal had always been to build our business side up first while trusting our existing soccer staff – who led the record-setting season in 2018 – to guide our initial transition from the USL to MLS. This strategic timeline also allowed me to learn from new my MLS peers, and their experiences and club structures. As we began our inaugural MLS campaign, we turned our attention to the sporting side and the development of a sustainable, winning organization.
“We looked at many ways to better structure our business, and we knew wanted to bring in someone who could oversee the entire soccer silo and give it his full attention. I am very involved in our West End Stadium project and making sure it’s completed on-time and on-budget, as well as sourcing and raising additional investments in partnership with the Raine Group, and growing the FC Cincinnati brand locally, nationally and internationally. I had always intended to step away from day-to-day involvement on the soccer side and allow a career soccer professional to put full effort into our work there.
“Earlier this year, with the assistance of outside consultants, we quietly began an international search for a general manager who not only meet our expectations for experience and past success, but who also understood the importance of establishing a successful, collaborative and data-driven culture. We have very high expectations for the club – not only in the long term, but also in the near term – so this was a critical hire that we took our time with and made sure to exercise due diligence.
“We believe Gerard is a fantastic fit for FC Cincinnati, both with his on-field football expertise, but also his off-field demeanor and managerial style. He has seen tremendous success at PEC Zwolle, winning the Dutch Cup and Dutch Super Cup, qualifying for the UEFA Europa League and maintaining its place in the Eredivisie, all while using forward-thinking systems to source players and analyze the club’s performance.
“We have great ambitions for FC Cincinnati and Gerard is stepping into a very large role. We will give him all of the support he needs to make us a successful, winning and community-focused club – from the first team all the way down to our newly established Academy.”
Up next for FCC, and presumably the final piece in the team’s recent shake-up, will be the hiring of a new head coach.
Cincinnati parted ways with Alan Koch May 7 after the team’s fifth straight loss in which they had also not scored a goal.
At the time of the announcement, Berding stressed that the decision was not based on game results, but rather ‘culture.’
Koch began as an assistant coach with the then-USL team in December 2016 before being promoted to head coach in February 2017.
He stayed on as head coach for the team’s first MLS season in 2019.
Berding said the search for a new head coach begins immediately, but would not commit to an answer on whether interim head coach Damet, 29, would be considered.
“We’re going to make sure that we have a head coach coming in who is a big time proven leader not only with results but also with culture,” Berding said.
There’s been no timeline given for when a new coach could be hired.