It’s been over two and half months since Wrong Side of the Pond helped to break the news of a return to Cincinnati for the United Soccer League, but things have remained eerily quiet from the FC Cincinnati camp — at least in official capacities.
For those still doubting the still-not-announced club’s existence, there’s really no doubt that the team is indeed coming.
Members of their staff have been spotted around town, most notably at American Outlaws Cincinnati events at Molly Malone’s in Covington, but I also spotted them at the Women’s World Cup Final watch party on Fountain Square while we were recording our podcast on stage. They’ve also already been handing out season tickets to those pictured in their gear. There have been rumored promotional shoots, both in studio and on-site at UC’s Nippert Stadium. And a quasi-announcement was even made on local sports anchor Ken Broo’s television show saying they would actually be playing at Nippert — though a recording of that has proven elusive.
Too, the radio silence in the lead up to my article in May also has also come to an end. I’ve heard from two different front office staff members, both of whom have FC Cincinnati email addresses. And I’ve also been in touch with the PR company that’s handling the launch and media relations.
Yet despite all of this, an official press conference announcement still has not been scheduled — though two rumored dates have reportedly been pushed back.
So why the delay?
The official line from club contacts is that travel schedules haven’t aligned properly to make an announcement yet, though as recently as late June the club were still waiting for “official paperwork to be signed”. There’s also been speculation that a federal corruption and bribery investigation into rumored FCC front man Jeff Berding could have caused some of the delays. And there’s been the additional thought that the club are waiting to make a marquee signing to help make for a bigger splash.
And if my sources are correct, there could be some truth in the latter of those three.
But instead of a high profile player signing, FC Cincinnati are reportedly trying to make a splash with a coach.
Who they’ve allegedly lined up: former US men’s national team captain and current soccer pundit, John Harkes.
When I first heard the rumor, I laughed it off as wild speculation or the club’s “dream” outcome. John Harkes, coming to Cincinnati? Yeah, freaking right.
But I decided to follow up on it, just to be safe. And more than two different trusted sources confirmed that FC Cincinnati have indeed made him an offer, one of which saying they’re just “waiting on a signature”. That made me sit up a little more straight.
Signing up Harkes would be a major coup for the fledgling FC Cincinnati, should it come to fruition. There aren’t many more recognizable names in American soccer than the former national team star, and bringing in Harkes would certainly put them on the map, and quick. His playing credentials — including time spent in the Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday and a long spell in MLS — will give them instant credibility. And they’ll undoubtedly be able to use him to put some butts in seats.
But, there are a number of things that might stand in the way of this deal actually coming good.
For starters, Harkes likely makes decent coin doing commentary. If FC Cincinnati have wooed him, they likely had to dig out a fairly decent chunk of change per season from their rumored deep pockets to lure Harkes to the Queen City. Would a team fresh out of the gates be willing to do that, with no revenue guarantees to back that up? That remains to be seen.
Secondly, while Harkes’ playing pedigree is impressive, his coaching experience isn’t near as impressive. He’s never actually been the head coach of a professional club, though he was an Assistant at Red Bull New York under Bruce Arena, and also headed up DC United’s youth development after his retirement. Whether or not FC Cincinnati would see that as a risky move for a new team also remains to be seen.
Of course, things could fall through. Or this could all blow over and be just another rumor among many others in the still unannounced world FC Cincinnati. Wild claims coming out of that camp aren’t unusual, so I’m taking all the Harkes talk with a healthy-sized grain of salt.
But if FC Cincinnati do manage to lure John Harkes to the banks of Ohio, I imagine they’ll turn more heads than just mine.