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WE THANK OUR FANS, PARTNERS FOR INCREDIBLE JOURNEY INTO MLS DEAR FCC SUPPORTERS: We did it! Through the incredible and bountiful support of our fans, our partners and, most importantly, our beloved Cincinnati communit y, we have reached the highest level of our wonderful sport. We are certainly blessed as we enter Major League Soccer in 2019. Very quickly, FC Cincinnati has established itself as a unifying energy in our fair city. We’ve brought all walks of life together, fostered new friendships and relationships, and nurtured a passion for inclusivity, unity and togetherness that is unique to not only our fan base, but also soccer as a whole. The pride and love we all have for Cincinnati has been infectious. Whether at Nippert Stadium or in stadiums throughout the country, the welcoming nature of our supporters is really wonderful and inspiring to witness. We are so fortunate that our fans have embraced this idea to bring soccer to the Queen City. We’re also fortunate that the Cincinnati corporate community has committed to FC Cincinnati so strongly. And no company more so than Mercy Health, who joined our team even before we made our expansion pitch to MLS in December 2017. Mercy’s expansive partnership – as our jersey sponsor, as the naming partner of our world-class training center in Milford, Ohio, as our official medical provider and as a community
programming partner – touches every aspect of our club and our region. We’re so fortunate to have such a committed company behind us as we enter MLS. We believe that FC Cincinnati will be a cultural driver in the Queen City. As we settle into MLS and move toward 2021, when we open West End Stadium, we plan to be outstanding neighbors and community members. We know that soccer is a unifying sport, open to anyone, and we hope that our commitment to our greater community inspires all with whom we interact and touch. Until 2021, however, we are so fortunate for our partners at the University of Cincinnati. With the university’s backing and hospitality – not only at Nippert Stadium but all over campus and throughout the administration – we’ve made a resounding arrival on the professional soccer scene. We would not be in the position we are today without UC. We’re excited for two more years of their incredible support. We’re so excited for what lies ahead in 2019 and beyond. This is a new chapter for Cincinnati, and we’re thrilled to be leading the way. I thank God for blessing our team and our family. Thank you for all of your overwhelming support, and we will continue to make you proud Cincinnatians.
Sincerely, Carl H. Lindner III Managing Owner & CEO
WE WANT YOU TO BE PROUD OF THIS TEAM, ON AND OFF THE FIELD DEAR FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS: We did it! We met our goal of joining Major League Soccer! In our first three years as a United Soccer League club, we tried to walk the walk and talk the talk, and act and work as if we were playing in this country’s top division while auditioning to earn our promotion to MLS. Along the way, we welcomed fans – young and old alike – to our FC Cincinnati family, set records in just about every category the USL tracked and, above all else, established soccer as a way of life in Cincinnati. Now, our success has paid off and we enter MLS as the league’s 24th club in 2019! It’s the result of a lot of hard work and dedication by our amazing staff and ownership group. But more importantly, it’s because of the undying passion and support from you! You are the real reason we sit on this amazing precipice. Since last May’s MLS announcement, we’ve spent countless hours planning for this very moment. From ensuring that we build a competitive team to ensuring that we continue to stage entertaining games at Nippert Stadium, we’ve had you – the fans – in mind.
Our singular aim is making our city proud of this club, both on and off the field. We have a very diverse roster that represents almost every corner of the globe. Together, we expect that the players will be an unbelievable group to watch week in and week out. Plus, the quality of the group’s character is unmatched, and they will be tremendous representatives of the Queen City, both around our region and throughout North America. We’re fortunate that Greater Cincinnati has embraced our club with open arms. We rely on our three key tenets – being a winning club, visible in the community and family-friendly – to stand out and differentiate ourselves in our incredible city. We appreciate the support you have given us and look to return that support by ultimately bringing championships to Cincinnati. This inaugural season is going to be an incredibly special year. We’re excited you’re along for the ride as we enter MLS with your momentum behind us. Sincerely, Jeff Berding President & General Manager F C C I N C I N N AT I
GUIDE TO FC CINCINNATI IN MLS By Charlie Hatch
FC Cincinnati is the 24th team in Major League Soccer, the top level of soccer in the U.S. and Canada. Here’s a quick guide to FC Cincinnati’s upcoming 2019 season, including facts and figures on MLS:
24 There are 24 teams in
MLS, although there are
27 announced franchises. Nashville and Miami will have expansion teams in 2020, and Austin will enter in 2021. The league started in 1996 with 10 teams. 4
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From left, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding, FCC majority owner Carl Lindner III and Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber in May 2018 announce FCC’s expansion to Major League Soccer.
The league is divided into two conferences: Eastern Conference and Western Conference. FC Cincinnati is one of 12 teams in the Eastern Conference. Eastern Conference Atlanta United FC Chicago Fire Columbus Crew SC D.C. United FC Cincinnati Montreal Impact New England Revolution New York City FC New York Red Bulls Orlando City SC Philadelphia Union Toronto FC
Western Conference Colorado Rapids FC Dallas Houston Dynamo LA Galaxy Los Angeles Football Club Minnesota United FC Portland Timbers Real Salt Lake San Jose Earthquakes Seattle Sounders FC Sporting Kansas City Vancouver Whitecaps FC
FC Cincinnati will play 34 regular-season games this year. That includes matches against each Eastern Conference team home and away, in addition to one game against each Western Conference team. If 34 sounds familiar, it is. FCC played 34 games last year in the 2018 United Soccer League regular season. The Orange and Blue were the USL regular-season champions. Eleven players from FC Cincinnati’s 2018 roster are on the 2019 preseason roster, including midseason MLS imports Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe. Both joined FCC in the summer transfer window from the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes, respectively. The other nine are Nazmi Albadawi, Corben Bone, Justin Hoyte, Forrest Lasso, Emmanuel Ledesma, Jimmy McLaughlin, Spencer Richey, Blake Smith and Emery Welshman.
This is FC Cincinnati’s fourth season playing professional soccer. The first three were in the United Soccer League. Additionally, this will be FCC’s fourth straight year playing in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Open Cup is separate from MLS, but features every U.S.-based MLS team. In the Open Cup, technically, any team — regardless of league stature — can compete to become the country’s annual national champion, provided that a club has qualified for the tournament. FCC will play its first 2019 cup game in the fourth round. In previous seasons, the club started in the second round. In 2017, FC Cincinnati was the first non-MLS team to advance to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals since 2011.
MLB Branding Reveal
FC Cincinnati selected six players in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. With the first overall pick, the team selected Frankie Amaya, a midfielder. Defender Logan Gdula was the 13th pick overall. In the second round, FC Cincinnati drafted midfielder Tommy McCabe (No. 29), goalkeeper Jimmy Hague (No. 30) and goalkeeper Ben Lundt (No. 37). FCC chose forward From left, Jeff Berding, Frankie Amaya and FCC head coach Alan Koch.
Rashawn Dally with the 49th pick in the SuperDraft. F C C I N C I N N AT I
HAGGLUND EXCITED TO COME HOME CINCINNATI-AREA NATIVE IS FIRST LOCAL TO JOIN FC CINCINNATI’S ROSTER AS MLS PLAYER By Charlie Hatch
uring the off-season, Nick Hagglund and his sister hopped into an Uber to go to Abigail Street in Over-The-Rhine. Inside the car, he says, his driver asked if Hagglund would believe that he drove more people to FC Cincinnati games than Reds fans to Reds games. “I was like, ‘No, I wouldn’t have believed you,’” he says with a smile. “It’s crazy to see how far this city has come as a soccer town and how passionate the fans of FC Cincinnati are. It’s exciting to be part of.” Before his January trade from Toronto, the last time Hagglund lived in Cincinnati was when he played soccer at Xavier from 2010 through 2013.
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Before that, he attended Lakota West High School. Now, he’s a center back on FC Cincinnati and is the team’s first Cincinnati native on its Major League Soccer roster. “Going away for those years in Toronto, there was nothing here,” Hagglund says of Cincinnati’s pro soccer scene before FC Cincinnati launched in 2015. “To see it grow has been fun. … Cincinnati sports fans are the best! When I saw that a team was coming here, I knew something great would happen eventually.” And now Hagglund is home for good and a key part of FC Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS squad in 2019. Being home now also has its advantages. He and his wife can drop off their young daughter at her grandparents’ homes when they go out. He can visit his sister downtown and can now experience the city’s remarkable renaissance on a daily basis. “To come home and to be with my family, play in front of my hometown, it’s a dream,” he says. “If someone told me at 5 years old that one day I would be playing professional soccer in front of my hometown, I’d have called you crazy. So it’s awesome to see the team’s rise come to fruition.” When he played for Toronto, trips home lasted roughly a month. He stayed in West Chester, where he and his wife grew up. “My sister lives downtown, and it’s a place where people want to go and live, whereas before, it wasn’t necessarily that way,” Hagglund says. “To see The Banks and what they’ve done down there and the apartments, stores and restaurants in other neighborhoods, people are genuinely excited about living downtown and in OTR, and it’s awesome,” he says. Before joining FC Cincinnati, he says he followed the team as closely as possible. When Toronto FC II visited Nippert Stadium, he always asked the Toronto players
Nick Hagglund returns this year to his native Cincinnati as a center back (above and bottom left). His younger years were spent playing soccer in West Chester (left).
about their experience. They raved about the atmosphere and the ravenous support the team had from their home fans. FCC will soon launch its MLS academy program, which will give children who grow up in the Cincinnati region – like Hagglund – the chance to one day play for their hometown club that they’ve supported. While Hagglund isn’t the first Cincinnatian on the team’s roster — Austin Berry and Matt Bahner played on the team during the three seasons in the USL — he’s the first in MLS. “It’s cool to be the first,” Hagglund says. “It’s something where I feel very proud that I’m from Cincinnati. I was born in Cincinnati, raised in Cincinnati and surrounded by Cincinnatians, so I think it’s a cool thing. It’s exciting. It’s a new chapter.” n
PLAYER BIOS 2
Kendall Waston Defender
Height: 6'5" Weight: 235 Hometown: LimĂłn, Costa Rica Birthdate: Jan. 1, 1988
Greg Garza Defender
Height: 6'4" Weight: 220 Hometown: Raleigh, N.C. Birthdate: May 11, 1993
Height: 5'8" Weight: 165 Hometown: Grapevine, Texas Birthdate: Aug. 16, 1991
Leonardo Bertone Midfielder
Victor Ulloa Midfielder
Emery Welshman Forward Height: 5'10" Weight: 187 Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario Birthdate: Nov. 9, 1993
Roland Lamah Midfielder Height: 5'11" Weight: 173 Hometown: Abidjan, CĂ´te d'Ivoire Birthdate: Dec. 31, 1987
Height: 5'10" Weight: 170 Hometown: Wylie, Texas Birthdate: March 4, 1992
Nazmi Albadawi Midfielder Height: 5'10" Weight: 168 Hometown: Raleigh, N.C. Birthdate: Aug. 24, 1991
Height: 5'10" Weight: 152 Hometown: Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland Birthdate: March 14, 1994
Forrest Lasso Defender
Fanendo Adi Forward Height: 6'3" Weight: 205 Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria Birthdate: Oct. 10, 1990
Darren Mattocks Forward Height: 5'9" Weight: 167 Hometown: Portmore, Jamaica Birthdate: Sept. 2, 1990
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PLAYER BIOS 13
Jimmy Hague Goalkeeper
Height: 6'1" Weight: 196 Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio Birthdate: Sept. 14, 1992
Height: 6'3" Weight: 186 Hometown: Walled Lake, Mich. Birthdate: Aug. 28, 1996
Allan Cruz Midfielder
Height: 5'7" Weight: 156 Hometown: Nicoya, Costa Rica Birthdate: Feb. 24, 1996
Mathieu Deplagne Defender
Corben Bone Midfielder
Przemysław Tytoń Goalkeeper Height: 6'5" Weight: 187 Hometown: Zamość, Poland Birthdate: Jan. 4, 1987
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Spencer Richey Goalkeeper Height: 6'1" Weight: 192 Hometown: Seattle, Wash. Birthdate: May 30, 1992
Height: 5'7" Weight: 151 Hometown: Plano, Texas Birthdate: Sept. 16, 1988
Eric Alexander Midfielder Height: 5'11" Weight: 175 Hometown: Portage, Mich. Birthdate: April 14, 1988
Height: 6'0" Weight: 175 Hometown: Montpellier, France Birthdate: Oct. 1, 1991
Nick Hagglund Defender
Jimmy McLaughlin Midfielder Height: 5'8" Weight: 150 Hometown: Malvern, Pa. Birthdate: April 30, 1993
Blake Smith Defender Height: 5'9" Weight: 151 Hometown: Boerne, Texas Birthdate: Jan. 17,1991
Frankie Amaya Midfielder
Height: 5'5" Weight: 144 Hometown: Santa Ana, Calif. Birthdate: Sept. 26, 2000
Kekuta Manneh Forward
Height: 6'0" Weight: 175 Hometown: Northville, Mich. Birthdate: Oct. 21, 1993
Caleb Stanko Midfielder
Height: 5'10" Weight: 178 Hometown: Holly, Mich. Birthdate: July 26, 1993
Hassan Ndam Defender Height: 6'3" Weight: 215 Hometown: Foumban, Cameroon Birthdate: October 29, 1998
Justin Hoyte Defender Height: 5'10" Weight: 172 Hometown: London, England Birthdate: Nov. 20, 1984
Height: 5'9" Weight: 140 Hometown: Bakau, Gambia Birthdate: Dec. 30, 1994
Fatai Alashe Midfielder
Emmanuel Ledesma Midfielder Height: 5'11" Weight: 167 Hometown: Quilmes, Argentina Birthdate: May 24, 1988
Alvas Powell Defender Height: 6'0" Weight: 184 Hometown: St. Thomas, Jamaica Birthdate: July 18, 1994
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NIPPERT STADIUM FANS HELP LAUNCH FCC INTO MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER By Charlie Hatch
Blue and orange smoke blows through The Bailey whenever FC Cincinnati scores at Nippert Stadium.
he atmosphere has been compared to an English cup final, as well as being called the best in North America and a cauldron. It helped show Major League Soccer executives what FC Cincinnati could bring to the league. Simply put, Nippert Stadium and FC Cincinnati’s record-setting attendance numbers there have driven the club’s meteoric rise. And in 2019, the stadium should house some of the largest attendances in MLS. “Every game, the fan base seems to grow and grow,” defender Justin Hoyte says. “It’s just unbelievable when you walk out and the fans are chanting and cheering and the loud noise they make. “Being from England, it ’s good to come here and have that same kind of atmosphere they have there, which in America, you wouldn’t expect. I can only see it getting louder and being even better than it is now.” For defender Forrest Lasso, the first three trips to Nippert were as a visitor with United Soccer League side Charleston Battery before he joined FCC in 2018 en route to the USL Defender of the Year honors. 10
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“Electric” is how Lasso describes the atmosphere. “The energy smacks you in the face and wakes you up.” When FC Cincinnati was announced as a United Soccer League club in August 2015, Nippert Stadium became the team’s home-field advantage. Last season, FC Cincinnati averaged 25,717 fans a game,
the most of the 33 USL teams and more than double the average attendance of No. 2 Sacramento Republic FC, the trade publication Soccer Stadium Digest reported. The figure also was up from 21,199 in 2017. During the club’s three years in USL, attendance figures annually towered over the rest of the league. Inside, fans surround the field and are sometimes feet away from the pitch. The Bailey—the club’s colorful and raucous supporters’ section—is filled with representatives of the club’s various supporters groups and other fans who boast smoke flares, flags, drums and colorful tifos. Before games, fans walk en masse from local bars and restaurants, singing songs about the club before a procession through the east concourse and filling The Bailey. Once inside, fans create a cacophony of noise, voicing their pride and passion for the Orange and Blue. “Just watching everyone turn up in jerseys, shirts and merchandise from the club is amazing and one that I couldn’t believe,” Hoyte says. “Once you get on the field, you want to perform in front of them. “For me, I want to give 110 percent and show what ability I have to the fans and give back to their great support. For me, walking out there is just amazing.” n
Soccer has become a destination sport for families and fans of all ages.
FC CINCINNATI-MERCY HEALTH PARTNERSHIP AMONG MOST COMPREHENSIVE IN MLS
By Charlie Hatch
Mercy Health and FC Cincinnati team officials unveil the club’s inaugural 2019 jersey at a special event on Feb. 11 inside historic Music Hall. Joining them onstage are players from FCC’s inaugural team.
hen FC Cincinnati and Mercy Health first announced their landmark partnership, the club was still in the United Soccer League and hoping for an expansion berth in Major League Soccer. At the time of the announcement, FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding noted that the partnership “would represent one of the largest jerseysponsorship commitments in MLS.” That was in November 2017. This season, FC Cincinnati takes the field in MLS wearing jerseys with Mercy Health proudly emblazoned on the chest. Not only that, Mercy Health is the naming partner for the club’s state-of-the-art training facility in Milford, Ohio. The Mercy Health Training Center will house the first team and the future FC Cincinnati Academy, as well as soccer operations staff and other club personnel. Additionally, Mercy Health is the official medical provider to FC Cincinnati and is heavily involved with the club at every level of the team’s health and wellness initiatives—not only for the players, but
also through community programming. In short, the deal that promised hope is a successful reality. “They’re part of so many things we do,” Vince Cicero, FC Cincinnati’s senior vice president of partnerships and broadcasting, says. “For an individual team, it’s probably as comprehensive a relationship as any MLS team has. The fact that they are dually involved with our jersey and the presence of that, as well as the title sponsor of the training center, is extremely unique.”
Cicero noted that the partnership also extends into soccer clinics and camps for kids; cross-marketing; FC Cincinnati Foundation events; and youth and community engagement. More could come as the partnership progresses, he says. “For us, we have a flagship partner with Mercy Health,” he says. “This is one of the most important business relationships that we have, and it extends through our entire community as well. We’re really working together to make Cincinnati better.” n
The Mercy Health Training Center is FC Cincinnati’s state-of-the-art training facility that is expected to be completed in August. The 34,000-square-foot building on a 24-acre site in Milford, Ohio, will house not only the FCC first team, but also the team’s soccer and support staffs, as well as the FC Cincinnati Academy. Outside, there are three full-size, lit soccer fields – two natural grass and one artificial turf – as well as a separate goalkeeping area. F C C I N C I N N AT I
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FC CINCINNATI FOUNDATION BRINGING SOCCER TO WEST END CHILDREN, OTHERS By Charlie Hatch
stablished in 2018, the FC Cincinnati Foundation is a nonprofit organization that oversees the team’s charitable programs and community-relations activities. The foundation’s objective is simple: Change the lives of underserved children in Greater Cincinnati. Kate Solomon, FC Cincinnati Foundation executive director and the club’s vice president of community relations, says the foundation is something the club wanted to create in its first three years of play, and FCC’s ascension to Major League Soccer provided opportune timing. “It is a public charity, and it’s consistent with how the city came together to support FC Cincinnati, bringing Major League Soccer to the city,” Solomon says. “With the foundation as a public charity, it allows FC Cincinnati to work together with the city to create programs that will serve and benefit our entire community.” The majority of the foundation’s pro-
Students at Roll Hill School in East Westwood practice soccer as part of the Club Ambassador program.
grams will focus on integrating soccer into the lives of children. Currently, former FC Cincinnati player and club ambassador Omar Cummings visits local schools and teaches the sport during gym classes. The program is currently launched at 14 area schools and lasts four to six weeks each session. “Having Omar involved as a club ambassador is very central to a lot of what we do,” Solomon says. “Not only does he bring a celebrity factor and a strong connection and appeal as a former player these kids saw on the field in Orange and Blue, but he’s someone that some kids can look up to. He’s fantastic with children and absolutely lives and breathes the game of soccer. It really makes him a perfect fit for our mission and a great person to influence a generation of children in our city.” The foundation also has partnered with the Cincinnati Recreation Commission and YMCA to operate the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s nationally run “Soccer for Success” after-school soccer program for children in the Cincinnati community. The program will reach 350 children this spring. Additionally, the FC Cincinnati Foundation will build 10 mini soccer fields in the area in the next five years, with the first opening at the Lincoln Recreation Center – the Cincinnati Recreation Commission’s West End location – ahead of the club’s first-ever MLS game March 17 at Nippert Stadium. FC Cincinnati’s future
Former FC Cincinnati player Omar Cummings leads a group of students at St. Joseph School in West End in soccer drills as part of the FC Foundation’s Club Ambassador program.
stadium is being built in the city’s West End neighborhood. “We’re starting almost all of our FC Cincinnati Foundation programming in the West End and growing out from there, so it really is a focus area for us to make sure the children in our new neighborhood are able to participate in our sport,” Solomon says. While the foundation is a means to help and support area children, there’s a chance the FC Cincinnati soccer programs could lead to area children’s futures in MLS, as well. “Our goal is that the foundation makes a significant, positive impact in as many kids’ lives as possible,” Solomon says. “Long term, what we’re all most excited about is seeing the kids who participated in our programs, learning the game and playing it in their neighborhood, eventually making it to FC Cincinnati’s first team. It’s not a matter of if it will happen, but rather it’s just a matter of when. “Kids dreaming of big goals will drive their success in all aspect of their lives, whether in sports or other professional dreams.” n F C C I N C I N N AT I
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NIPPERT STADIUM: MLS 2019
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