The MLS season may be suspended, but FC Cincinnati has not been idle. And for good reason: FCC is still without a permanent head coach. So while the training staff looks for ways to keep the team in shape, general manager Gerard Nijkamp has been looking for someone to lead it.
After the resignation of Ron Jans in February, Yoann Damet stepped up once again in the interim. But the plan was always to find a permanent replacement sometime this year. The delay has given Nijkamp more time to conduct his search, but it has limited him as well. Only one candidate sat down for an interview in person before social distancing became standard throughout the country.
Friday, Paul Tenorio of The Athletic reported that two of the candidates are LA Galaxy assistant coach Dominic Kinnear and former Dutch national team center back Jaap Stam.
Despite the challenges, it seems FCC is close to making a final decision. In a conference call last Wednesday, Nijkamp said he hopes to have a new head coach by the time MLS resumes training but emphasized the importance of timing.
“The coaching search is part of the challenge,” Nijkamp said in a story on the MLS website. “If we don’t know when we restart the league, it will impact when we appoint a head coach. Of course, if we appointed a head coach today he’d get time to share his idea with the staff and interact with the players but we have to keep in our minds to take responsibility for all members of the club. In this case, the timing for getting a new head coach is key. I’m still talking with a few candidates. We’re delaying a little bit but not canceling. We’re positive in a certain moment, we’ll be back, then the new head coach of FC Cincinnati will have to be in market.”
Kinnear is one of the most experienced coaches working in MLS and also one of the winningest. He has 169 victories in his head coaching career, making him third behind Sigi Schmid and Bruce Arena. He started his coaching career as an assistant for the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 after 14 years as a professional soccer player in the United States (with a brief stint in Mexico.)
That Earthquakes team, led by a young Landon Donovan, went on to win the MLS Cup in 2001 and 2003. Kinnear was promoted to head coach the following season and won the Supporter’s Shield in 2005. When the team relocated to Houston, Kinnear moved with them. He would go on to lead the Houston Dynamo to back to back MLS Cup championships in 2006 and 2007.
Kinnear resigned after the 2014 season so he could return home to the Bay Area and coach the Earthquakes. But his second stint in San Jose wasn’t nearly as successful. Kinnear failed to make the playoffs in his first two seasons and was fired halfway through the 2017 season. He has been an assistant coach for the LA Galaxy ever since.
Stam, on the other hand, is a less experienced manager but was a far more successful player. He started his playing career in the Dutch Eredivisie before joining Manchester United. It won the Premier League all three seasons he was on the team. He would go on to play for Lazio, Milan, and Ajax before retiring in 2007.
His first coaching job came at PEC Zwolle where he served as caretaker manager in 2009. Then he became an assistant coach for Ajax in 2013 and served as the head coach for their reserve team. After that he went on to coach Reading in the English Championship. It made the Championship playoffs his first season, but he couldn’t maintain that success and was fired halfway through his second season. Stam returned to the Netherlands to take over PEC Zwolle in the middle of the 2018-2019 season. Last summer he became the head coach of Feyenoord but resigned in October after only winning three of their first 11 games.
FC Cincinnati has two very different candidates to consider. Kinnear would be a steady hand for the locker room. He has the experience in MLS that many on the team lack. And his trophy case would certainly impress. Could he return to those heights in Cincinnati? Or is he too far removed from his glory days?
Hiring Stam would be a much riskier choice, but his name and legacy would make waves. Many of these players grew up watching soccer when Stam was in his prime and winning trophies. He was a defensive destroyer on the pitch, and his lackluster coaching career doesn’t change that. Could he capture the success Patrick Viera had in New York? Or would he fail like Brad Friedal did in New England?
This will be FC Cincinnati’s third head coach in 12 months, and that makes this decision vital for Nijkamp and club president Jeff Berding. Bringing in candidates like Kinnear and Stam indicate they know the importance of this appointment.