The big man is back.
On Monday, FC Cincinnati announced they have signed free-agent defender Forrest Lasso for its inaugural season in Major League Soccer.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Lasso who earned defensive player of the year honors for the second straight season in the USL, gives FCC a much-needed physical presence as it moves into MLS.
Head coach Alan Koch said the physical tools were apparent from the beginning, but it was Lasso’s work ethic and desire to improve in all aspects of the game that ultimately earned him a shot at the next level.
“He’s still growing as a soccer player, knowing how to use his skills,” Koch said. “It’s pleasing for us as a coaching staff how much he improved during the course of the year. I think he will continue his improvement through the course of next year.”
Lasso was an imposing figure on the pitch in the USL. While that might not be the case next year in MLS, the combination of skills that he brings certainly remains unique for a player his size.
The centerback from Raleigh, N.C. led the USL in clearances with 223 and in aerials won with 172 while ranking second in the league with 32 blocked shots. He won 74.3 percent of his duels during the regular season including more than 82 percent through the air. Lasso recorded 47 interceptions, 17 tackles, and 88 possession recoveries last season.
“He’s surprisingly mobile for a player his size,” Koch said. “He’s good in the air, he’s good on the ground. We can use his size as a strength in attacking set pieces and defending set pieces. But we can also use his size as a strength in open play.”
Lasso, 25, worked extensively last season on set pieces, which in the early portion of the year was not an area of strength for FC Cincinnati. In fact, it took more than 20 minutes into the 20th match for them to notch the first set-piece goal of the season. That goal came when Lasso headed home a Kenney Walker free-kick.
“With my physicality and my size, it’s something I should be able to take advantage of,” Lasso said, following that 2-0 win over Charlotte. “It’s a little cliché, but practice makes perfect.”
If you’re looking for intangibles, Lasso checks all the boxes.
Lasso put in extra time last season to be better on set pieces, both at defending them and becoming a more adept goal-scoring threat. Lasso was known to stay late after practice to work on positioning and headers, knowing that with his size it was an area of his game that simply had to improve.
Coming out of Wofford College, a small liberal arts school with fewer than 2,000 students, Lasso has forged a career path for himself that took him to the Charleston Battery where he enjoyed a standout 2017 campaign, scoring a career-high six goals to earn the chance to pursue his MLS dream in Cincinnati.
In his first season in the Queen City, Lasso made 29 appearances including 28 starts and scored three goals.
“Every failure was motivation for success for me,” Lasso said. “I’ve had plenty of ups and downs. I’ve been released from a couple teams. The biggest challenge for me is stay consistent. I’ve kind of embraced that mentality. I like to compete.”
Next season, Lasso could get the chance to reunite with Los Angeles FC defender Walker Zimmerman, a player he competed against in college who has a skill-set that Lasso likens to his own. Lasso could possibly defend the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney, players he watched growing up.
As a United States citizen, Lasso will occupy a domestic roster spot on FCC’s 2019 roster. He is one of five players currently signed for next season, including forward Fanendo Adi and midfielders Fatai Alashe, Corben Bone and Emmanuel Ledesma.
There are reports that midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin could be retained as well, but no official announcement has been made.
But, the third day of December belonged to No. 3.
“Being able to play in MLS has been something I’ve been trying to achieve since I started playing soccer, so for me, it is very satisfying,” Lasso said. “There’s been a lot of hard work over the years, and I had faith in myself that I would eventually get the opportunity.”