The next step in FC Cincinnati’s Dutch revolution focused, as expected, on head coach. Ron Jans (pronounced YAHNS), a native of Zwolle, Netherlands, was announced as the franchise’s third non-interim head coach on Sunday night. The hiring reunites him with FCC General Manager Gerard Nijkamp, who also hired him as the coach of PEC Zwolle in 2012. They went on to win two trophies with Zwolle, which plays in the Eredivisie, the top division of Dutch soccer.
More than five months into its inaugural MLS season, the hiring of Jans pairs an experienced head coach and an experienced, soccer-specific general manager. At last, the on-field side of FC Cincinnati is catching up to its off-the-field side. And in fairness to FCC, its incredibly quick transition from USL to MLS—plus the finalization of a stadium deal—forced it to forgo many seemingly no-brainer checklist items on its way up the ladder. Hiring Jans ensures that, at minimum, the club is on the same page top to bottom, from the front office to the senior team to the youth teams.
Here are some thoughts on Dancin’ Jans, the fallout from his hiring, and other FC Cincinnati storylines:
Jans’ contract runs through 2020, which matches up with Nijkamp’s previous comments about reexamining the managerial position before the club moves into its West End stadium prior to the 2021 campaign. (If it were up to him, Jans would like to stay past next season.) He’ll coach the Orange and Blue in the team’s first-ever “Hell Is Real Derby” vs. the Crew Saturday night in Columbus.
Jans made 389 appearances and scored 76 goals during his time as a player, which included a run at PEC Zwolle. Someone on Reddit even dug up footage of him scoring a wicked header. Nearly all of Jans’ playing, coaching, and front office experience took place in the Netherlands. His most recent position was technical director of FC Groningen, an Eredivisie club.
Multiple media members on hand were quick to note how jovial and easy-going the new coach appeared. Jans is also known as a teacher of the game and is adept at raising the level of underperforming squads. All of those traits will serve him well as he attempts to dig FC Cincinnati (17 points) out of the bottom of the MLS table. “I am not (Harry) Potter with a magic stick and win all the 10 games that are left,” he said. “But I want to be part of the progress of the club.”
Yoann Damet, who has served as FC Cincinnati’s interim coach since mid-May, will be Jans’ top assistant. Goalkeeping coach Jack Stern will stay on, too. Joining the assistant coaching ranks is Ivar van Dinteren, a former Dutch player whose prior coaching experience includes PEC Zwolle. Van Dinteren played for and managed the Dayton Dutch Lions of then-USL Pro League, so he has a bit of a connection with Southwest Ohio. FCC said assistant coach Pa-Modou Kah left the club to “pursue other professional opportunities.”
Since May, FC Cincinnati has hired a Dutch general manager, a Dutch head coach, and a Dutch assistant coach. The Dutch general manager’s first signing was a Dutch center back. After Alan Koch was fired, the team shifted its playing style to a possession-based approach with a heavy Dutch connection. At minimum, FCC now has an identity. The club must now find players to match that identity and start putting together complete performances. Displays like last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Vancouver, in which FC Cincinnati controlled much of the game only to yield a goal just before half and the eventual winner in the 84th minute, speak to this squad’s inability to maintain focus and technique for 90 consecutive minutes.
FC Cincinnati is third in average attendance through 22 weeks of the MLS season, an indication of the Queen City’s healthy appetite for soccer and the club’s still-reasonable ticket prices. Atlanta and Seattle, the two teams drawing better than FCC, play in NFL stadiums with capacities north of 65,000.
Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the associate editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.