FC Cincinnati roster moves designed for franchise future, Major League Soccer

Nine players signed for 2018

CINCINNATI – Less than half of FC Cincinnati’s 26-man roster will return next year as management rebuilds the team with an eye for the future.

“The roster will look dramatically different in 2018. To be a winning franchise, we know we need to improve our roster across the board,” FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding said in Wednesday press conference at the franchise’s downtown offices.

Berding said the Orange and Blue is doing a strong pivot this season to contend in the progressively challenging United Soccer League and while preparing to “reach our ambitious goals.”

FC Cincinnati is poising itself for Major League Soccer membership. Two expansion teams will be announced in mid-December.

FC Cincinnati’s season ended Saturday in the USL quarterfinals in Florida. The Orange and Blue, which finished in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 12-10-10 record, lost in the frist round of the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Who’s coming back?

Nine players will return including multiple fan favorites. FC Cincinnati exercised the options for Matt Bahner, Garrett Halfhill, Justin Hoyte and Kenney Walker, and re-signed Corben Bone, Danni Konig and Jimmy McLaughlin. Josu, signed to an additional year in August, and Sem de Wit remain under contract.

Who’s in talks?

Austin Berry, Mitch Hildebrandt and Djiby are not under contract but FC Cincinnati is in discussions with all three. Plans for Harrison Delbridge, Andrew Wiedeman and Paul Nicholson will be announced in coming weeks.

Who’s not returning?

The team did not exercise the options for Kadeem Dacres, Marco Dominguez, Dallas Jaye, Aodhan Quinn, Aaron Walker and Dan Williams.

Contracts for Pat McMahon, Tyler Polak, Kevin Schindler and Mele Temguia will not be renewed, and the loan term for Kyle Greig from the Vancouver Whitecaps has ended.

Jaye, McMahon, Polak and Williams were on the 2016 roster.

“The ‘inaugurals,’ as I call them, who helped us build the club over the last two years, will always be a special part of not only FCC but of this city’s sports lore,” Berding said. “While they did not a win a World Series or compete in a Super Bowl or a Final Four, they literally did help create a new sports team in Cincinnati from scratch and represent us with integrity and class.”

Why announce the roster changes now?

FC Cincinnati is being proactive in its roster moves so the entire team is intact for the preseason. Returning players will be back to work as soon as Monday.

Last year Berding said the team “didn’t handle things the right way,” as players were given four months off and personnel decisions were not concluded quickly.

“As a result, we made eight roster changes after the season began and we started the year out behind. Chemistry and things that you would want to have in place to have the preseason to build your squad were not done effectively. We think that that played a part in why we were inconsistent this season,” Berding said.

What’s the latest on the stadium front?

Berding said “positive discussions” with developers and elected officials continue in regard to planning and financing the construction of an FC Cincinnati specific stadium.

“But certainly we’re not quite there yet. We remain confident that there’s a plan that can be a model partnership that shows that this community has learned the lessons of our past, and developed a partnership in a manner that doesn’t impose a new taxes on the local taxpayers,” Berding said.

Berding said FC Cincinnati will pay over half the costs of the stadium.

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