First reported by Cincinnati Soccer Talk, two-time NASL Best XI midfielder Nazmi “Naz” Albadawi has moved to FC Cincinnati on a multi-year contract.
“Nazmi is an excellent technical player who has the ability to create opportunities for the players all around him,” Head Coach Alan Koch said in a club press release. “We expect him to come in and make an immediate impact with our team. He is a leader on and off the pitch and will be a vital part of our clubs plans moving forward.”
Albadawi was second in the NASL in chances created only to another new FCC signing, Emmanuel Ledesma. The 26-year-old out of Raleigh, NC spent the last 4 seasons in the NASL with his hometown team, North Carolina FC/Carolina Railhawks. During his time at the club, he made over 110 appearances while earning a spot in the NASL Best XI for 2016 & 2017. In 2017 he made 32 appearances (31 starts), led the team in minutes played (2815), and tallied 4 goals and 4 assists.
It was rumored that Albadawi had considered a move to an MLS club this offseason, but was swayed by the opportunity of rising to the first division with FC Cincinnati. “The club has a hugely exciting future and I’m delighted to be a part of the long-term plans,” said Albadawi. “I can’t wait to play in front of the best fans in America and win trophies for the city of Cincinnati.”
Albadawi is largely considered to have MLS-level talent and was the subject of a Four Four Two article earlier this season by Jeff Rueter. In the article Rueter lists the midfielder as “possibly the best American talent in the U.S. lower divisions”.
This move also seems to fit the mold of Coach Koch pursuing high-character players. NCFC GM Curt Johnson had great things to say about Albadawi in the tweet below. His comments were echoed by many North Carolina fans on social media following the announcement.
— Curt Johnson (@curtjohnson17) January 5, 2018
Where does he fit in 2018?
For most of the 2017 season, Nazmi was employed in the attacking midfield of their 4-1-4-1 but played mostly behind the lone striker ahead of the #8. As speculated earlier, it’s possible for Koch to slot Albadawi in the central midfield ahead of a Kenney Walker/ Tyler Gibson or Corben Bone paring in a 4-2-3-1 or behind forwards Heinemann/Ledesma/Welshman in a 4-4-2. Expect him to run at guys in the final third to create space for other players. He can also cover a lot of ground and can pick out a killer pass catching sleeping defenses off guard.
The signing of Naz may be the end of signings prior to the clubs Florida camp in February. Coach Alan Koch looks to have put into place a plan to develop a team and has so far succeeded in identifying pieces to fit that scheme. While FC Cincinnati has struggled to create chances in the attacking third over the past two seasons, the signings of Ledesma and Albadawi should go a long way in unlocking defenses in the USL.
For more information about Nazmi Albadawi and FC Cincinnati’s newest signings, check out tonight’s episode of the Cincinnati Soccer Talk podcast with special guest Head Coach Alan Koch.