UPDATED 9:35 a.m. Thursday
FC Cincinnati announced Thursday morning the signing of free agent midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo following the expiration of his contract with Brentford of the English Football League Championship earlier this month. The announcement confirms the report Wednesday from Laurel Pfahler.
The South African will fill the new international spot acquired from the New England Revolution on Monday. The signing used targeted allocation money, according to a club media release. Mokotjo will be added to the roster upon completion of his transfer certificate and work visa.
“I felt like now is the right moment for a new challenge at a club that has big potential and is willing to challenge itself,” Mokotjo said in the media release. “I think in a way this is a perfect match. I’m honored and ready to relish this opportunity and challenge.”
It is no surprise to see general manager Gerard Nijkamp move so quickly for a new player. Following the deals that sent forward Kekuta Manneh to New England and midfielder Fatai Alashe to the Columbus Crew, the Orange and Blue had a couple of openings in their senior roster and a shiny new international spot to fill.
The player’s name, however, came almost out of nowhere. Though first reported by Travis Grimes of You Ain’t Lion and then confirmed by Pat Brennan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the deal wasn’t feasible until FCC received the international spot earlier this week. The move came together quite quickly, though it’s hard to imagine he’ll be ready to suit up against D.C. United at Nippert Stadium on Friday. But he will fill the 18th roster spot for Cincinnati and make the team compliant under MLS roster rules.
Kamohelo Mokotjo, 29, is a defensive midfielder who fills a position of need for the Orange and Blue. New head coach Jaap Stam adjusted well to the opposition in the MLS is Back Tournament last month, but the midfield was desperate for a proven ball-winner. Mokotjo’s last season with Brentford was disrupted by injury in January, but Stam will certainly be happy with his addition once he’s fit.
Mokotjo fits the profile of an archetypal Nijkamp player. The defensive midfielder started at SuperSport United in his native South Africa after being promoted from their academy side. After one season, he earned a three-month trial at Feyenoord in the Dutch Eredivisie and signed for the team in August 2009. Mokotjo spent three seasons on the first team and was managed by new FC Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman. Then in 2013, he was signed by Nijkamp to play with PEC Zwolle.
“We are pleased to add a player in Kamo who will be a strong fit for what we are looking to do at FC Cincinnati,” Nijkamp said in the release. “He is an intelligent player that will be an asset for our club on both sides of the pitch. We look forward to welcoming Kamo to Cincinnati and having him integrate within our locker room.”
Nijkamp’s decision to sign Mokotjo proved to be a successful one. In his first season at Zwolle the team would go on to win the KNVB Cup, and Mokotjo was selected as the club’s Supporter’s Player of the Year. He would only spend one season with the Bluefingers, his final appearance coming in a 1-0 victory over Ajax in the Johan Cruyff Shield where he set up the winning goal.
Staying in the Netherlands, Mokotjo then moved to FC Twente. He saw a lot of success at Twente, where he was named captain during his final season at the club and nicknamed “The General” for his leadership of the young squad. Mokotjo spent the last three years of his career with Brentford and featured regularly for the Bees. Defensive midfielders don’t provide many goals and assists, but Mokotjo is an excellent passer and has a strong interception rate.
FC Cincinnati will return to action against D.C. United at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Nippert Stadium. You can listen to this week’s episode of March to Matchday and follow cincinnatisoccertalk.com for more coverage.