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 FC Cincinnati

Amir Daley Looks to his First Team Counterparts as an Example to Follow in First Season as a Professional

April 17, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
FC Cincinnati News Release

The transition from college to the pros isn't for everyone, especially for athletes. Playing professionally is a privilege that very few get the opportunity to pursue. Still, the change from being a student to playing soccer as life's first occupation can have speed bumps.

The intensity, the consistency required to compete everyday, the uptick in required focus and commitment to yourself and your game can be a wake-up call for all.

For Amir Daley, a defender from Duke University who signed an MLS NEXT Pro contract with FC Cincinnati 2 this offseason and now leads the team in goals with three just five games into the season, the jump to the pros has not only been a dream come true, but focused his vision.

"You get a little load off of you because you're really just responsible for your soccer and the things that relate to that," Daley said to "It's your life and I love it. Honestly, I'm getting better at it, getting used to it. So, I'm just loving that transition right now."

Daley was no academic slouch either. A graduate at Duke after four years with the Blue Devils, the New York native was named to the All-ACC Academic First Team in his final season, as well as being named a Top Drawer Soccer Top 100 player and one of 44 players to earn an invite to the 2023 adidas MLS College Showcase.

So now, that Blue Devil has found his way to Cincinnati, his ability to focus exclusively on his game has allowed him to use his energy to improve as a pro.

While at Duke, Daley was charged with being a more "defensive player." He played center back and as a defensive midfielder, but was purely oriented with being a defensive stopper. Which makes his breakout as an offensive star for FCC 2 all the more fascinating, but equally exciting.

Since joining the club, Daley has been exclusively utilized as a wingback in FCC 2 Head Coach Tyrone Marshall's utilization. He leads the club with three goals through five MLS NEXT Pro matches, including a brace against New England Revolution II. The wingback role is an important one for FC Cincinnati, the way Pat Noonan has deployed that position in the first team has been key to the teams success and thus adds extra importance to how FCC 2 looks to develop players at that position.

But having never played that role, nor any role with such an attacking mindset at the forefront, the jump to wingback has been simplified by the example of players in front of him.

"When you have DeAndre Yedlin in front of you in your position, it's really easy to learn and pick things up in training," Daley said to "I watch DeAndre all the time in training so I just try to emulate qualities like him and work hard. And if that leads to goals, then I guess it works."

The move to the right wing has unlocked a part of his game that has already made him feel at home. The ability to push up the field and use his speed and presence on the ball has made him a game changer with every touch, while retaining his defensive training and knowing when a responsible bit of defending is needed.

"I think that's definitely my spot going forward," Daley added. "I've been used to playing right center back and I was a back mostly all my life so I'm used to being back there, so now I'm just trying to get my offensive side of the game down and once I get that down I'll really be at home in that spot."

The 21-year-old is part of a revamped group with FCC 2 focused on player consistency, development, and opportunity for success in MLS NEXT Pro as a fundamental part of the FC Cincinnati player pathway from Academy to first team.

"Just like last year you saw (Álvaro Barreal) join in the attack a lot, (Daley) can join like he's a winger. When teams are off-balance we can find our wing backs out early and get in behind," FCC 2 Head Coach Tyrone Marshall said of Daley's play. "That's a great opportunity for us and it's been good stuff from Amir to capitalize.

"He's been working in practice and we've been talking to him about his runs towards the goal and not away. There are other things that we're going to work on and get better at but it's been a good job on him to learn quickly."

Daley was brought into FCC 2 this winter as part of a wave of new players to supplement the second team roster and provide stability to the day-to-day operations of the team, and in tandem with first team decision makers. Director of Player Pathway Jeff Larentowicz worked to improve the roster in the offseason to create a roster that is more conducive to development.

Part of that is roster size. In the past, FCC 2 has relied on academy players and first-teamers to fill out the edges of the rosters and lineups. With 14 players signed to MLS NEXT Pro deals, the roster of FCC 2 specific players has nearly doubled from 2023 and training sessions are more consistent as players and coaches can build richer relationships.

A growing roster is not the only solution though. Targeting players who fit the mold of what FC Cincinnati is trying to accomplish on the field, have the quality of players who could make the jump to the first team, have the drive learn compete and the desire to learn are all part of the equation that Larentowicz is trying to put together to better position the clubs developmental process.

"He was always a competitor, captain, a the ACC went on drafted, he went to the combine and went undrafted and that was like 'that's a guy we'd love to have in' so we've brought him in and he's done all the things we talked about," Larentowicz said of how Daley fits into that model. "In the way we play with players out wide and in the wingback position, he fits it really well and I think we're just fortunate that he was there for us to snatch."

Daley and the rest of FC Cincinnati 2 are just at the beginning of their season. As Marshall and Larentowicz would remind you, the season is long, full of ups and downs, with players mostly in their first full year as professionals. So it's important to keep in mind that development and success may not be linear.

But it does appear there is a page turning over for FCC 2 and a new chapter to be excited about, with Amir Daley being just one of the reasons to be excited.

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