Is Jurgen Locadia’s Time With FC Cincinnati Running Out?

Last year’s big international signing hasn’t produced enough goals, and now he’s riding the bench.

Jurgen Locadia scored the equalizing goal in FC Cincinnati’s come-from-behind 2–1 victory over CF Montreal last Saturday. It was the club’s first win of the season and the first goal of the campaign for a player who, after his initial two matches with FCC in early 2020, looked like he’d play a starring role on the club for years to come. Locadia now has been relegated to a bench role as the expiration date of his loan deal creeps closer.

 

With the high-profile transfers of Brazilian striker Brenner (a rumored $13 million) and the pricey acquisition of bona fide No. 10 in Lucho Acosta, Locadia’s star power has waned for a number of reasons during his second season in Cincinnati, and now it’s increasingly unlikely that with just two MLS regular-season goals to his name in 22 matches (16 starts) he’ll will stay here past the June 30 expiration date of his loan deal and instead will return to England with English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion.

There are a number of reasons why the marriage between Locadia and FC Cincinnati appears headed for divorce. For starters, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. In FC Cincinnati’s 2020 season opener, Locadia came off the bench and scored a goal, narrowly bagged another, and had three shots on target in 26 minutes as FCC nearly salvaged a road point at New York Red Bulls. The 6-foot-2 striker/winger hadn’t practiced in more than a week due to visa issues but looked the part, and optimism was high. Locadia started and went 90 minutes in FCC’s second game, a 2–1 loss at Atlanta. Then the pandemic hit, and the season was shut down.

Locadia injured himself in training in the lead-up to the MLS Is Back tournament in July, so he wasn’t healthy enough to feature in FC Cincinnati’s three group stage games. He did come off the bench in the team’s knockout stage game against Portland, however, to convert a pressure-packed penalty shot that helped send the game to extra time. In what would be a harbinger of things to come, though, Locadia missed a potential match-winning goal in the waning moments and then had his penalty saved as Portland moved on via penalty kicks.

Prior to MLS Is Back, FC Cincinnati and Brighton had agreed to extend Locadia’s loan deal—originally set to expire on July 5, 2020—through June 30, 2021. FCC retained a permanent transfer option as part of the agreement, but the financial terms of the arrangement between the clubs were not released. (The original purchase option was reportedly $10 million.)

When the MLS regular season resumed last August, the good vibrations from the Orange and Blue’s mini-run at MLS Is Back were quickly vaporized as the club once again sunk to the bottom of the MLS table, finishing with a league-low 12 goals in 23 matches. Locadia was chastised for missing ample sitters, and it was clear his confidence was shrinking with every miss. In fairness, though, he was provided with precious little service, as FC Cincinnati lacked a true No. 10 (remember the Siem de Jong experiment?) on a bad team that was leaking confidence and racking up injuries as the season wrapped up in the fall.

Prior to the acquisitions of Brenner and Acosta, rumors swirled that FC Cincinnati might be ready to move on from Locadia, with Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv linked to the 27-year-old Netherlands native. Nothing came to pass, however, and Locadia went through a full preseason with FCC and head coach Jaap Stam, a fellow Dutchman, for the first time.

Locadia isn’t starting these days, though he’s appeared in all five matches this season. In his lone start, he was taken off after 60 minutes. He’s been playing on the left wing, a position he played quite often during his days in Europe, but rookie Calvin Harris has been Stam’s preferred option so far. It’s been a curious development, as Locadia is finally paired with a legit No. 10 in Acosta and a striker in Brenner who hasn’t been racking up goals but is drawing plaudits for his movement and work rate—and yet Locadia can’t crack the starting XI.

It’s quite possible that unfair expectations were heaped upon Locadia. Yes, he was a legitimate rising star in his early 20s, bagging 45 goals and 34 assists for Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven from 2011 to 2018. His later seasons at PSV were rife with transfer rumors, though, and he finally moved to Brighton in January 2018, with the English club breaking their transfer record for the then-24-year-old. Locadia struggled for playing time for Brighton, though, and he scored just three times in 34 matches before being loaned to German side Hoffenheim in August 2019. He scored four goals in 11 appearances in the Bundeslgia before returning to Brighton.

Over the past three years, Locadia has played for three different sides in three different leagues and has generally failed to produce goals at the level matching his high price tag. Whether that’s through unlucky circumstances or an exaggerated pedigree (or something else), I’m not sure what’s happened to him.

The additions of Brenner and Acosta, plus the opening of TQL Stadium, have shifted the spotlight and prodding questions away from Locadia. That will change in the coming weeks. When one factors in his continued presence on the bench to begin matches, the amount of money ownership poured into the player signings and the stadium, Locadia’s wages (tied for seventh-highest in MLS), and his startling lack of production, the writing appears to be on the wall: Barring a stunning stretch of goal-scoring, Locadia is going back to England in about a month’s time. And that’s a shame, because the original move was a shrewd one by General Manager Gerard Nijkamp. For a number of reasons, though, Locadia and FC Cincinnati haven’t meshed.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. Off the pitch, he is the managing editor for Signs of the Times magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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