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Culture Club: FC Cincinnati GM Chris Albright wants to build a winner

Albright provided an update on the offseason via Zoom on Tuesday morning. He said decisions on which current players’ options will be picked up have already been made with the formal announcement coming within the next few days.

Chris Albright observed his new club for the final seven matches of the season and what he saw offered up few surprises. The first-year FC Cincinnati general manager knew he was inheriting a squad with a few special pieces that didn’t fit into the overall puzzle. It was a tree without roots.

“It really solidified what I saw from afar,” Albright said. “Getting some glue pieces in here to connect those special pieces and become a core of a team. Our job here is to build a team that can win games. It’s our job to identify those core pieces.”

That work is well underway.

Albright provided an update on the offseason via Zoom on Tuesday morning. He said decisions on which current players’ options will be picked up have already been made with the formal announcement coming within the next few days. The search for a new head coach is still on target to be completed by Christmas.

The shortest offseason in MLS history affords him little time, but incoming signings will begin to filter in through the winter. Much of the focus to this point has been with the current roster.

“We’ve mostly focused on the players that are on our team,” Albright said. “We’re trying to do our diligence behind the scenes to figure out what players options aren’t going to be picked up. It’s about what players fit how we want to play stylistically, and culturally frankly. Also, players that would give us flexibility in the cap.”

As stated previously, Albright wants a new head with MLS experience and a track record of success in this league. That could mean he’s eyeing a coach whose team is still in the MLS playoffs, but Albright wouldn’t discuss specific candidates or put a number on how many currently are on the list.

“Profile-wise, we’re looking for someone that’s been around winning cultures and winning teams in this league,” he said. “Someone that understands the mechanics of getting players to this league and at the same time embraces those difficulties.”

Albright said that the short offseason will not force FCC to make any rash decisions in order to get someone in quickly.

“It’s important that we get the right person,” he said. “We are going to remain focused on quality over timing.”

It’s not certain whether interim head coach Tyrone Marshall is among the candidates, but Albright made it clear that he would be an important part of the organization should he not take a job elsewhere. There are reports that Marshall is being considered for a position with the Chicago Fire.

“Tyrone should be connected to a lot of jobs,” Albright said. “He stood in and did a really admirable job for us under difficult circumstances. We value him.”

Some news did come out of Tuesday’s briefing when Albright confirmed that Gustavo Vallecilla’s option had been picked up. The Ecuadorian defender appeared in 25 matches this season, all starts.

“Gustavo is a young, exciting player,” Albright said. “He’s a player who in that position, needs experience. He’s going to be in Ecuador’s plans moving forward. He’s going to be in our plans moving forward. He just needs games.”

Albright also said that goalkeeper would be an area of need this offseason after both Kenneth Vermeer and Przemyslaw Tyton produced mixed results, but that an overhaul of the entire defensive structure was being looked at.

“It’s an area of need,” Albright said. “The goalkeeping could have been better. But defensively we need to be better as a team. Whether that’s defensive midfield. Whether that’s center back. Whether that’s goalkeeper. The new head coach will be tasked with that, frankly.”

FCC can ill-afford any unwanted departures this offseason, and Albright said talks with returning players have been positive.

“One thing that works in this league, is valuing your players,” he said. “It’s our job to make sure it’s a players-first environment. I believe I have buy-in from all those players.”

Albright also made clear what the club’s expectations are of them.

“We need more from Brenner. We need to put him in position to score more goals. That’s why he’s here,” said Albright. “We need Lucho (Acosta) to improve against the ball, defensively. We’ve spoken with Lucho about that. Our new coach needs to maximize the talents of the players we have in-house.”

Albright attended the US-Mexico World Cup qualifier at TQL Stadium earlier this month and said that’s the type of atmosphere he wants to establish in the West End, making it a tough place for opponents. He said that starts with the style of play.

“We want to make TQL a home-field advantage,” Albright said. “One way to do that is by creating a sort of in-your-face, transition-based, pressing-based team that lends to the modern game and modern athlete and gives our fans something to embrace.”

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