FC Cincinnati has acquired Swedish defender Pa Konate (pronounced PAH koh-NAH-tay) from Serie A’s S.P.A.L. The left-back is on a USL-loan agreement for the remainder of the 2018 USL season and has already joined training per Charlie Hatch. His deal also covers a one-year loan agreement with MLS for 2019, which includes a purchase option.
The 24-year-old left back was brought up through Malmö FF’s youth system and made several appearances for the first team while on his original youth contract. Konate signed his first professional contract in 2014 and had a breakout moment featuring in the 2014 Champions League qualifiers. Pa would appear in 70+ matches for Malmö including six UEFA Champions League games and three Champions League qualifiers. During his time in Sweden, Konate played a part in four Allsvenskan titles for his youth club (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017) before being sold to Serie A’s S.P.A.L.
Konate has also earned three caps with Sweden’s full national team and was a member of Sweden’s U21 squad that won the UEFA Under-21 Championship in 2015. Pa also represented Sweden at the 2016 Olympic Games starting all three matches for the squad.
“Pa has a fantastic international pedigree with national team experience at every age level,” FC Cincinnati technical director Luke Sassano said. “He’s consistently been a key member of championship-winning clubs and we’re eager to see him bring that mentality to Cincinnati as we aim for a USL Cup Championship this season.”
The Swede’s career took a bit of a hit after his 2017 move to Italy with Konate only featuring twice totaling 124 minutes. S.P.A.L. were in a relegation battle for the majority of the 2017-18 season and it may have been difficult for the new man to break into the squad. His move to FCC should provide an opportunity for the left back to gain playing time he didn’t get in Italy.
“Pa is an excellent technical left back who is willing to join in the attack and is also an excellent defender,” head coach Alan Koch said. “We are excited to get him back up to match speed, so that he can recover his form that he showed at Malmö and earned him his move to Serie A. He will compete for playing time immediately.”
Many FC Cincinnati fans will wonder on the impact the Konate signing will have on the current roster. To date, left-back Blake Smith has started 18 of 21 matches for FCC and has impressed. The Enquirer’s Charlie Hatch wrote a great piece on the impact of the signings on the current roster. We recommend that you check it out.
It remains to be seen how quickly we will see Konate, but if you gauge coach Koch’s comments vs. his quotes for Alashe and Adi, I believe we will see the left-back very soon.
This move seems to be a high-reward, low-risk signing. Konate will have time to adapt to Cincinnati and the US this summer which is important for a youngster. His loan is also a good piece of business as FC Cincinnati will get to see his quality day-in and day-out before sending S.P.A.L a transfer fee. Konate moved to S.P.A.L on a transfer fee of 300,000€, so it is possible FCC could pay somewhere around $350,000 should the Italian club want to break even on the deal.
My only concern is that Konate has played more than 20 games a season once in his career (2016 – 24 games). At 24-years-old, Pa should be able to feature more than that, but could he begin to show more fatigue playing in the heat of the summer for 30 games? The real question though is that even with that thought, the reward is higher than the risk. If his time in Cincinnati is successful, the club could have their starting left-back for the future. If things don’t work out they could perhaps turn a profit on the Swedish international should he desire to go back to Europe.
The pacey left-back likes to get into the attack but has only recorded 4 assists in his career. He has been rated as an above average defender who should be able to compete in USL and MLS. While the style of play may differ from the Allsvenskan to MLS, the leagues are rated similarly on Five Thirty Eight’s Global Club Soccer Rankings. He should benefit from training with S.P.A.L for a year and his Champions League pedigree should give him an advantage when facing some attackers in MLS.
Overall another solid move for technical director Luke Sassano and head coach Alan Koch.