A week after FC Cincinnati axed head coach Jaap Stam, the franchise has hired the person tasked with leading the search for his replacement. Chris Albright, previously the Philadelphia Union’s technical director, was hired as FCC’s third General Manager on Monday, almost exactly two months after the club parted ways with former GM Gerard Nijkamp.
Albright is tasked with a gargantuan assignment: flipping the fortunes of a franchise on track to finish with the fewest points in MLS for the third straight season. Following a 1-0 defeat at home to New York Red Bulls over the weekend, the Orange and Blue have lost five successive matches and claimed just three points from their past nine contests.
Following the exit of Nijkamp, whose experience constructing rosters came entirely in the Dutch Eredivisie, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said MLS know-how would be a prerequisite for the club’s next GM, and Albright has that in spades. The 42-year-old Philadelphia native was an exemplary right back during his 15-year career in MLS. He found the most success with the LA Galaxy, where he won a pair of MLS Cups and was named to the league’s best XI in 2005. Albright also appeared 22 times for the U.S. men’s national team and was on the squad’s 2006 World Cup roster.
After spending the 2012 and 2013 seasons with his hometown club, Albright ended his playing days and joined Philadelphia’s front office as technical director. Albright eventually rose to become the No. 2 in the Union’s front office and oversaw a player development and academy system that’s blossomed into one of MLS’s premier talent pipelines. Philadelphia has qualified for the postseason four times over the past five seasons, and the 2020 campaign was a banner year for the club, when it won its first-ever Supporters’ Shield. Two of the club’s recent homegrown stars, attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson and defender Mark McKenzie, sealed high-profile transfers to clubs in Austria and Belgium, respectively, before they turned 22. Aaronson’s transfer was reportedly the most expensive ever for a homegrown U.S. player.
“Chris’ experience in Major League Soccer and his track record of success are impressive,” FC Cincinnati Managing Owner and CEO Carl H. Lindner III said in a team press release. “His ambitious, energetic character is emblematic of the type of leader we sought to bring in. We are thrilled to have him lead our soccer organization, and we are confident that he will fulfill our goals and help make Cincinnati a championship city.”
In the same release, Berding added, “Our search for our next general manager was extensive. Our new GM was going to be someone who knew what was required to win in Major League Soccer, experience that was non-negotiable. Delivering on that requirement, we are delighted to have found the best person for the job.”
According to Cincinnati, Albright will report to Berding and oversee “all soccer-related areas,” notably roster management, the salary cap, player scouting and acquisition, the coaching staff, and youth development and the academy program. In Philadelphia, Albright was supported by a top-notch organization, notably his boss, sporting director Ernst Tanner, and head coach Jim Curtin. Albright won’t be on his own in his new position, though, as he reportedly is bringing Union assistant technical director Kyle McCarthy with him to Cincinnati. In Philadelphia, Albright garnered plaudits for efficiency (points per dollar) and a “personable recruiting style.” Curtain gushed that Albright is the “best at what he does in our league, in terms of navigating the cap, finding incredible talent.” Berding apparently believes Albright can replicate his work in the Queen City, but with a club whose pockets are deeper than Philly’s.
With Albright’s credentials in mind, expect him—provided he actually does have final say over personnel matters—to steer FC Cincinnati’s focus away from chasing home run signings to inking undervalued and/or overlooked talent in bulk. Albright surely knows that players with reputable MLS experience are required to build out the league’s thinnest roster.
He’ll likely prioritize FC Cincinnati’s academy, too, using knowledge gleaned in Philadelphia to really ramp up FCC’s youth system, which has a sparkling facility but is years away from churning out impact players to the senior team. That isn’t to say the days of FC Cincinnati occasionally chasing the Brenners, Pity Martinezes, and Jurgen Locadias of the world are over. Berding and FCC’s ownership won’t supply Albright with carte blanche.
Time will tell if Albright will be granted enough resources to fulfill his vision. Ironically enough, Albright’s first match as General Manager will be Saturday night at TQL Stadium against his now-former club, which sits third in the East. Given that Cincinnati has been outscored 14-5 during its five-match losing streak, Albright will most likely receive a rude reminder of the tall task that lies in front of him before the 90 minutes are completed.
Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.