Planes, Trains, and Goal mark Locadia’s debut

“I was scared,” Locadia said, following training on Wednesday at Mercy Health Training Center. “Cincinnati did everything in their power to get my visa…”

Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images

MILFORD – In the 83rd minute of Sunday’s season-opening match at Red Bull Arena, FC Cincinnati forward Jurgen Locadia found himself clear on goal against Red Bulls keeper David Jensen. After Jensen saved his initial attempt, Locadia slotted home the rebound to bring the Orange and Blue within a goal.

But Locadia’s much-anticipated first FCC strike nearly was postponed to a future date when the process to obtain a work visa in his native Netherlands was delayed. It was supposed to take three days, but it took nearly a week.

With matchday swiftly approaching, Locadia feared he wouldn’t make it back to the U.S. in time and wondered if there’d been an unexpected snafu.

“I was scared,” Locadia said, following training on Wednesday at Mercy Health Training Center. “Cincinnati did everything in their power to get my visa as soon as possible. They told me I had to wait three days tops. I waited until Friday, so it was a week almost. It was kind of crazy.”

Locadia made the nearly 10-hour, 4,000-mile flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta on Friday, making sure he walked regularly while the seatbelt-fasten light was off, making friends to pass the time. He joined the club in New York on Saturday, barely 24 hours before his debut.

Being a professional footballer, Locadia said anything longer than a three-hour flight makes it difficult for him to stay loose, especially after missing a week of training while being stuck overseas.

“Flying and jet leg, it’s consuming,” Locadia said. “I walked as much as possible in the plane when the seatbelt is off. I walk around and have conversations with people.”

In the end, it all worked out.

Locadia was FCC’s signature acquisition during the offseason as a Designated Player on a five-month loan from Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion. FCC has the option to buy.

On Sunday, Locadia played 30 minutes in his debut and impacted the game almost immediately, recording four shots including the goal. Two of those shots were tantalizingly close.

Scoring in his debut is something Locadia has made a habit. He did so with PSV in 2011. He did it again in 2018 for Brighton. And he made it a treble on Sunday, despite going into that match with minimal expectations.

“I wouldn’t have been stressed out if I didn’t score in the first game,” he said. “I hadn’t been training all week. I had been flying all weekend. The coach told me I’d play tops 20 minutes. I ended up playing 30 minutes and scoring in my debut. It’s all been a nice week.”

Locadia spent most of Sunday’s match observing from the bench. He didn’t like much of what he saw in the first half of the 3-2 defeat. But after halftime, things changed. If FCC hadn’t been chasing the match for much of the second half, things might have worked out differently.

“The first half was bad on our side,” Locadia said. “I think New York played a very good first half and put pressure on us and we didn’t play good with our possession. The first half was definitely for New York. In the second half, we changed a little bit. We put more pressure in our defense. If it would have stayed 2-1, maybe we tie or win the game.”

There’s a star quality about Locadia that stands out on an MLS expansion franchise in its second season. There’s no certainty about the length of Locadia’s tenure at FCC, but the 26-year-old striker and aspiring music producer said he’s trying to make an impact while he’s here, particularly on the younger players.

“I talk with them,” he said. “Give them advice. Some players have some tension before games. It’s normal for everyone. I think I can give the young players advice on how to handle that, their emotions and things like that.”

With the travel adventures behind him, Locadia is settling into training this week with his new team.

With 11 appearances while on loan at Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, he didn’t need a full preseason to get fit. Locadia says he feels good and expect to play the full 90 against Atlanta United on Saturday.

“No more long plane rides,” he said, smiling.

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