In a report filed Thursday by Jeff Reuter and Paul Tenorio of The Athletic, FC Cincinnati midfielder Frankie Amaya confirmed he submitted a transfer request this offseason to the club.
“I’ve given everything to Cincinnati and the fans over the last two years and I will always be grateful for their support and kindness,” said Amaya. “During this offseason I’ve realized that the club doesn’t have the same level of commitment to me, so I have asked the club to trade me as I don’t feel my goals can be achieved in Cincinnati.”
Last Monday, it was reported the club had turned down trade offers exceeding $1 million in general allocation money for the young midfielder.
FC Cincinnati provided this statement initially to the Athletic and later to Cincinnati Soccer Talk:
“Earlier this offseason, Frankie expressed his frustration with losing and asked if we would trade him. We made clear that from our ownership, to our staff, to our fans, we are all disappointed that our first two seasons in MLS proved to be very challenging. We shared our plans to ambitiously add to our roster to return to the level of success that we experienced before joining MLS. We believe Frankie is a key part of how we will continue to grow on the pitch and therefore are not looking to trade him. Since the request, we have made a few key additions – led by Brenner – with more to come, as we remain committed to move on from our first two difficult seasons. We look forward to an exciting 2021 season when we open the fabulous West End Stadium.”
This announcement comes as a shock after the club made positive strides this week by acquiring Brenner on a young designated player deal from Sao Paulo. FC Cincinnati has also been linked in recent days to 2018 South American Player of the Year Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez as well as central midfielder Lucho Acosta from Atlas in Liga MX.
FC Cincinnati took Amaya with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft as a playmaking central midfielder out of UCLA. Following an initial loan to Orange County SC in 2019, Amaya was recalled and has featured in 41 matches, including 37 starts. His breakout moment came in the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament when his strike from distance beat Brad Guzan in a victory over Atlanta United. Amaya started all but two matches in 2020.
What does all of this mean?
Amaya, a player widely beloved in Cincinnati for his work ethic and scrappy play on the field the past two seasons, was expected to play a key role in the starting XI for the Orange & Blue in 2021. He was thought of as one of the main building blocks for the club this season, and with recent additions, many thought he could springboard into the upper echelons of the league. While the club has reiterated in messages to CST their intent not to trade Amaya, a public declaration like this has to create waves within the fanbase and club.
After the report, many may say that the club should trade Amaya, but that may not be the best route for the club. He would fetch a large price in the market, but as a domestic player on a team-friendly deal, he gives the club some control over its roster. Add to that the fact that the club is strapped for senior and international roster spots, and it makes finding a quality replacement difficult to do.
Is it a fair statement by Amaya? It’s not hard to see why he is upset. At 20 years old, he needs to be making the jump from a promising young prospect to one of the best midfielders in the league. He’s been mired at a club that has set league records for futility in each of his first two seasons. As of a week ago, many FC Cincinnati fans would find sympathy with the young midfielder as the club looked destined to struggle yet again.
He was also a young playmaker out of college but has been cast as a utility man in midfield and has yet been given the reins to prove himself with talent around him. Amaya and his agent could view his long term future further up the midfield, while the club differs in opinion. Moves for Martinez and Acosta would block his path to play the No. 10 role, leading to some displeasure.
I question the tact and leverage that Amaya and his agent used to force this move. Situations like this rarely get better after a player goes public with his intentions. A fanbase — while passionate — can sometimes be unforgiving. If it goes sideways, Amaya now is unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt. The last thing a young player wants to be characterized as is a problem player. Asking former league veterans, a move like this by such a young player isn’t going to be highly thought of in the dressing room.
It also puts both the player and club in tough situations. If he underperforms, it hurts his career — and in the case of the club, a promising asset it believes in.
Adding players like Brenner, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Alvaro Barreal and potentially Martinez and Acosta signifies FC Cincinnati is putting its chips on the table to win matches. Time will tell how Amaya will respond, but if it’s anything like we’ve seen over the past two seasons, it will be with full effort.