Offseason Check-In with Chris Albright
FC Cincinnati General Manager Chris Albright spoke to the media Tuesday after nearly two months on the job with the Orange and Blue.
While fielding questions from local and national writers, Albright discussed his evaluation of the roster, the club's head coaching search and more.
Read the full transcript of today's press conference below:
FC Cincinnati General Manager Chris Albright opening statement:
"It's been pretty productive. When I took the job, we talked about attacking three key areas: one, being the roster. We're obviously at a critical date today in picking up options and whatnot. We continue to really dig into the scouting department and how we scout players and what we're looking for in those criteria. (Two), the head coaching search, that continues to be very productive. We set a deadline by Christmas and feel good about that deadline on finding our guy to lead our organization and lead our team on the field. And thirdly, we talked about culture and really reenergizing the building. I think we've made some good strides there and obviously a big part of culture is the players on the field and that will be an important piece to really cap off the culture piece of the organization and make sure that we are all moving in the right direction."
Q: How much of the roster decisions come down to how other teams have made their decisions, and what players may be available from around the league vs. what fits best with what you feel is best for the organization?
"We're mostly focused on the players on our team. There's obviously some salary cap implications I think is what you're getting at in how we identify players and what players might be available. We're trying to do our due diligence behind the scenes to find out which players options aren't going to be picked up, what those numbers look like potentially coming in, but at the moment, it's really about what players we want to move forward with. What players fit how we want to play stylistically and culturally, frankly. And identifying also what players would give us flexibility with the [salary] cap. So, it's really a combination of all those things, I think as we move over the next three weeks and you have all the various mechanisms in how MLS makes players available, the expansion draft and reentry draft and waiver draft and free agency, we're looking into all those areas in how we can improve the team."
Q: Can you expand on the profile the next head coach will fit, can you expand on what you are looking for? And on the timeline, particularly with the shortest offseason in league history
"Profile wise, I think it is similar to what I said when I took the job. We're looking for someone with MLS experience. Someone that has been around winning cultures, winning teams in this league. Someone that understands the mechanics and difficulties of getting players to this league but at the same time embraces those difficulties. Someone that has really wrapped their arms around MLS and accepted it for what it is and has had success within that construct. Profile wise, stylistically we want to be an aggressive team. If you saw the match against Mexico in our stadium, I think we want to make TQL Stadium an edge and I think one way to do that is an 'in-your-face', transition-based, pressing-based team that lends itself to the modern game, the modern athlete but really takes advantage of what we're trying to do in our stadium and gives our fans something to identify with and be proud of. The profile is someone that embraces, in general, stylistically how we want to play. Formations and style of play are very different. The head coaching job, their job is to coach the team and to set us up tactically to be successful, but stylistically there's a profile that we're looking for.
"As far as timeline, I believe I said it to you when we went on this journey together six weeks ago, it's important that we get the right person. I'd love to be here for the next however many years and have a lot of success here, and it's important that we get the right person and not be so worried about timeline. Yes, it is the shortest offseason in the history of the league, certainly that I can remember. There's a lot of work to be done in a short period, but we are going to focus quality over timing and remain steadfast in that focus."
Q: How does the coaching search impact roster decisions, not today's deadline but more so, bringing in players the month or so before a head coach is hired?
"It's a little trickier, right? Just speaking from where I come from, it would be the technical director, the sporting director and the head coach making those decisions in conjunction. It's a little trickier, certainly. That being said, the coaching candidates that I've identified and have had discussions with over the last few weeks now at this point are in line with how we identify players and what we really value. So I'm confident that we're making decisions in-line with what the coaching candidate would want on the field. Certainly, within those discussions that we have had already, you can speak about specific players frankly and talk about guys around the league and potential targets or what we're looking for. What they see as our needs as opposed to what I see. We've been really diligent about understanding, kind of building this thing in a way that the new head coach will be able to embrace and be able to run with and have success with."
Q: Are you comfortable sharing how many final candidates there are?
"That's a direct question. We're down to I'd say the final few, you can read into what 'few' is. As far as specific candidates, we're not going to comment on that at the moment. But we feel good about where we are in the process for sure."
Q: What stood out to you, good and bad, and what were the areas you saw in the final weeks of the season after you were hired?
"I think we had some performances where we took it to some good teams, especially at home. If you think about the first half against Atlanta, specifically. If you think about the Chicago game, they scored a late goal to beat us 4-3, there were performances where you saw our quality and you saw the pieces. As I spoke about when I took the job, I think there's some pieces here that maybe we would not have had the opportunity to sign in Philadelphia that we already have in place here. Some of those special difference makers in a Brenner or a Lucho Acosta. I think being here over the last seven games or so really solidified what I saw as the need from afar, such as getting some glue pieces in here that are able to connect some of those other special pieces and become more of a core of a team that helps these other guys understand how to win games in our league, because it's difficult to do that. Really just the difference of building a team and identifying talent. I've said it at nauseum, that's our job here, to build a team that can win games and there's already some special pieces that will help us do that. It's our job to identify those core pieces."
Q: When do you plan to announce year-end roster moves and do you feel handcuffed from previous moves and contracts or do you feel you can immediately build the roster in your vision?
"As far as the announcement, in the coming days. We've made our decisions internally but those will be communicated in the coming days. Look, our hands are tied a little bit. We did not have the full flexibility to go out and put the exact team on the field that I envision or we as a club envision. But that's the beauty of MLS, right, every general manager would tell you that the salary cap is something that's difficult to navigate and that's what makes our job exciting at the same time. There will be some challenges as far as the cap, but we feel we're in a good place to start building what we want to build long term and certainly in a position to get some pieces in here to improve upon this year.
"I'm sure everyone at home will say, 'well you better improve upon this year.' We will, that I can tell you. I think we're on the right track in who we are going to identify and I think the league over the next few weeks with a lot of mechanisms to identity players in league that have had success. We're going to look under every rock to find players that are going to come in and fit what we want to do here."
Q: On Gustavo Vallecilla and if he will return in 2022?
"I will share with you that we will be picking up that option and triggering that transfer. Gustavo is a young, exciting player. He's a player that, in that position, needs experience. That position needs experience maybe more than any other, maybe goalkeeper. He's going to be in Ecuador's plans moving forward, he's going to be in our plans moving forward. He has a lot of attributes that I think lend themself well to MLS in his athleticism and physicality. He obviously can play with both feet honestly, but just needs games and I think can fit in what we want to do in our system. Again, more directly, we will be moving forward with Gustavo and are excited to do so."
Q: Do you feel like you have buy in and commitment from the big players on the team, such as Luciano Acosta, Brenner, do you feel that they are on board with this project? How much recruitment effort has been in house?
"That's a good question. I think one thing that I understand that works in this league is valuing your players. We all have jobs or don't have jobs at the end of the day based on the results on the field. It's our job to create an environment where all of those players are able to maximize their talent. That's our job, first and foremost, and that's everybody in this room currently with me, that's everybody in the medical staff, in sports science. Our job is to make sure that it is a player-first environment. I think knowing that that's the direction we are moving in, I think I do have full buy in from all the players, frankly. But look, it's our job, it's my job, to get more out of those players. We need to get more out of Brenner, we need to put him in a better position to score goals more consistently. That's why he was brought here. We need Lucho to continue to improve against the ball defensively and we've spoken with Lucho about that directly. I think that we're going to create an environment where players are going to want to be here. We're going to pick a head coach that understands that nuance of maximizing what you have with the players in-house. You don't get the most out of players by running around being a tyrant, that just doesn't work. We're going to create an environment where the players can maximize their talents and we think that they're all going to want to be part of that."
Q: On reports linking Tyrone Marshall to other coaching positions around the league
"I'm not aware of any direct interest. I know that Tyrone and Ezra [Hendrickson, Chicago Fire FC head coach] played together and so of course you can make the natural connection. Tyrone is also a really good coach, so he should be connected to a lot of teams, frankly. But we want to do our best to keep him here. He's obviously a player that had a really great career and he's obviously a good, young coach and a guy that stood in and did a really admirable job for us in a really difficult period. We want to do our best to keep Tyrone here because we value him. But I wouldn't be surprised if he was connected with any job open around the league."
Q: In terms of goalkeeper, where is that position in terms of a position of need?
"It's an area of need. It's not all down to the goalkeeping this year, I think the goalkeeping could have been better clearly, but defensively we need to be better as a team and it's something we're going to focus on, it's something that the next head coach will be tasked with, frankly. Whether that's defensive midfield, center back, goalkeeper, we need to better defensively. Clearly, goalkeeping is a big piece of that and it's something that we've identified as a priority this offseason."
Q: How will you will approach the offseason mechanisms and do you see any good candidates in the various drafts?
"It is [an opportunity]. We will be made aware of those more concrete lists over the next couple of weeks. Like I said, we've been digging behind the scenes to try to understand who is apart of that. Free agency, guys that don't have an option that is kind of clear. We're waiting to see today which guys' options are picked up for the teams that aren't still involved [in the playoffs]. All those mechanisms, we're going to value for where we sit right now and try to build out that core, build out those players that have MLS experience, those are pretty easy ways to pick up experience. Whether or not those players are actually good fits for what we're trying to do, that's really, when I took the job, what we set out to do. To be more clear in what we're looking for on the field and how we build that and stick to our guns there. That's not going to change but we're going to explore all those mechanisms, of course."
Q: What does the organizational chart look like under you? Have you made any changes to that or any staffing changes?
"As I said to Jeff and Carl and Meg on the way in, infrastructure was from where I come from is something that we did well. We picked the right people and put them in positions to be successful. I think in the short term, given the shortest offseason in the history of MLS, we've remained focused on head coach, culture and players in the short term. Infrastructure wise and organization chart wise, we're going to look at everything in how we can improve. But right now in the short term, it's sort of an all hands on deck, everybody in the building pulling in the right direction this offseason to put the best product on the field come late February. Once we get through that, being able to reevaluate some processes, reevaluate how we scout players whether that is the performance department, whether that's the medical department, infrastructure is going to be a big piece of what we do here. But in the meantime, we're focused on those three key areas this offseason."
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