There is an old sports adage that goes around when coaches are fired and it means something like, “You can’t fire the players.”
Count Haris Medunjanin as a follower of the proverb.
“It is very difficult to send away 25 players,” said Medunjanin, FC Cincinnati midfielder and MLS veteran, on Tuesday after the club’s first training session since former head coach Jaap Stam was sacked on Monday.
That one comment summed up the feelings of the two players, who turned to the media on Tuesday as the dust continued to settle after Stam’s departure.
Medunjanin and center-back Geoff Cameron agreed that the blame for Cincinnati’s mistakes in 2021 wasn’t entirely Stam’s.
The players shared their share of the burden, they said in separate interviews.
“That happens in football,” said Medunjanin. “The coaches come and go and now it has happened to Coach Stam. We have to keep going. It was a tough time for us. We fought a lot, we didn’t win any games and there is always the possibility that the coach is to blame . ” I don’t think it’s always the coach because you still have 23, 24 players who have to do that on the field.
“That’s how it works. Every time something goes wrong, the coach gets the first debt.”
The “tough time” Medunjanin called it wasn’t just the club’s 4-13-8 overall record, but the fact that Cincinnati won only one of their last 16 games.
Cameron pointed at the FC Cincinnati badge on his Adidas training top just before Tuesday’s practice session. He did so while suggesting that Stam’s dismissal “should light some fires under some people’s butts”.
“There are a lot of things the guys play for: contracts, renewals and their future here,” said Cameron. “We have nine games to show that, to show the people who really want to be here, who really want to represent this club and who really care about it. That should be our mindset for everyone here. Losing is a contagious thing. It’s very “easy to lose because you just get complacent and it keeps happening and happening and happening.”
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Cameron said it was not pleasant to come to the Mercy Health Training Facility on Monday, knowing that Stam, along with assistant coaches Yoann Damet and Said Bakkati, had lost their jobs and that the players felt responsible for it.
Now, players face a responsibility to try and make something decent out of the 2021 listing season with nine games pending. After that, FC Cincinnati expects another long transition season.
Medunjanin and Cameron are two of the more talkative and constructive FCC players who deal with the media, and they provided valuable insights in their respective presentations.
Both skillfully dodged any detailed mention of internal problems with the team and coaching staff, though Medunjanin appeared to briefly refer to Stam’s brief benching and substitution patterns.
Around the middle of this season, the criticism of Stam’s rare and late substitutes became a popular one. It could have extended into the FCC locker room.
“We had a couple of games, you know, we could do something, but I don’t know what happened over there or – I know what could happen, but like I said, I’m not going to talk about here (and) what happened and (not), “said Medunjanin.” I’m a player. I’m not a coach so I’m not going to say what could be better, what couldn’t be better … If you don’t use your entire squad, it’s very hard to win. That’s how it is. You can’t just use 12-13 players. You have to use your whole squad if you want to achieve something in MLS. “
At the same time, Medunjanin also said that it is easy for anyone to criticize a coach’s decisions after being fired, saying: “Everyone is the best coach after the game.”
With nine games outstanding, Cincinnati FC is barely relevant across the MLS scene. The playoffs are mathematically possible, but hardly attainable, as the FCC is 17 points behind the seventh and last playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
A winning record is not possible, even if the club took on an unprecedented form at the end of the year.
When asked what a success could be over the remainder of the season, Cameron cut the question off and said, “Nine wins.”
“Realistically that would be ideal,” said Cameron. “You find yourself breaking things somehow … you set yourself mini goals and we move on, and I think that should be our mentality. We go there (to Toronto) so as not to lose. We want to win, 100%, but we will get away with something and that should be our attitude. At least that’s mine and I try to pass that on to the rest of the guys. ”