More changes for FC Cincinnati: Dutchman Gerard Nijkamp brought in as GM

FC Cincinnati named 49-year-old Dutchman Gerard Nijkamp as its new general manager, replacing Jeff Berding, who retains the title of club president.

Nijkamp comes from Eredivisie club PEC Zwolle, where he served as the club’s technical director since 2012 when it returned to the top flight of Dutch soccer. It has finished 11th, 11th, 6th, 8th and 14th over the last five seasons.

Nijkamp's hiring follows last week's move to hire Larry Sunderland away from the Portland Timbers to become FC Cincinnati's director of player development. Luke Sassano will remain technical director. Nijkamp will finish up work at NEC Zwolle and become the full-time general manager at FC Cincinnati by Aug. 1.

FC Cincinnati still needs to name a permanent replacement for Alan Koch, who was fired as head coach three weeks ago. It wanted the general manager in place to conduct the head coach hire. Frenchman Yoann Damet, who at the age of 29 is the youngest head coach in MLS history, is currently serving as FC Cincinnati's interim head coach.

Berding, to whom COO Dennis Carroll (hired away from the Philadelphia Union in January) and Nijkamp will report, certainly has had plenty on his plate. He is overseeing the FC Cincinnati project in Cincinnati's West End. Berding's background is in football -- he worked for the NFL Bengals for 20 years -- and politics. He served on the Cincinnati city council for six years.

The stadium project has faced numerous hurdles, delaying MLS's approval of FC Cincinnati as an expansion team in 2018. The latest snag was resolved on Thursday when the MLS club reached an agreement with tenants of West End property owned by the club who will be displaced. The agreement paved the way for the Cincinnati city council to unanimously pass a set of zoning ordinances needed for stadium construction to move forward.

FC Cincinnati survived a brutal schedule to start its first MLS season with a split of three games against Seattle, Atlanta United and Portland, all MLS champions within the last four seasons, and was 2-1-1 after a 2-0 win at New England. But it then went 521 minutes without a goal before Koch was fired after a 1-0 loss at San Jose. It won its first game under Damet but then lost its next to games 5-1 and 2-0, leaving it last in the Eastern Conference with a 3-9-2 record.

FC Cincinnati's roster-building came in for criticism before the season started. But as it floundered, Koch complained about the lack of quality players, and Fanendo Adi, a holdover from the 2018 season in the USL and FC Cincinnati's first Designated Player signing, countered the team lacked of an identity and questioned the decisions by Koch, who started 23 different players in the first 11 games.

Berding said the skid was not the reason for Koch's dismissal.

"I'll just share, every single day we're thinking of how I can do better," Berding said after Koch's firing. "How the president can do better and how the 'GM' can do better. That doesn't mean that I won't be doing some things differently as well."
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