The Pennsylvanian Messi: An Interview with Jimmy McLaughlin

(Photo Courtesy of Jamie Smed @JamieSmed)

Ask any FC Cincinnati fan who their favorite player is, and you're bound to hear a few different names. One name that is sure to stick out for many, is Jimmy McLaughlin. Whether they'll say mih-clauf-lin or mih-clau-glin is up for debate. What can't be debated, is the love he gets from the fans. Whether it's because of his work on the pitch, his throwback dances, or his humor (you should really click on all of those) Jimmy is a face for the franchise. His face is even on the front page of the club's website (look at that hair).

Obviously, the man is loved here in Cincy, so I thought it would be perfect to learn more about him as a player, as a person, and as a fan of the beautiful game. Here is my full interview with #20, Jimmy McLaughlin.
(Credit: John Minchillo, Associated Press)

Q: At Colgate University you were the first freshman to start all 22 games, you also won some silverware, and got rookie of the year. Did you ever think of staying in college or was the ultimate goal to go to MLS as quickly as possible?

A: Playing in college was always a goal of mine growing up but playing in MLS was also another goal of mine. So things got tricky when I started receiving interest from the [Philadelphia] Union. It all happened very quickly and things change fast in soccer. I was offered a contract before I even went to Colgate, that I declined because I wanted to experience college soccer and college in general. After the season, they made another offer, which was significantly better and had an allotment for education. I loved my experience at Colgate and still love Colgate and it was an extremely tough decision. You just never know what will happen and I didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to fulfill a dream and sign a professional contract. So I took the gamble.

Q: I've read that you spent a few days training with the TSG Hoffenheim's U-19 and Reserve squads over in Germany, what was that experience like?

A: Hoffenheim was a great experience. I learned a lot about the European training habits and culture. They have a different attitude and mentality over there. I took many little pieces from that experience and put them towards my habits and attitudes now.

Q: You had 5 appearances on the pitch in a Philadelphia Union jersey, how was it playing in MLS and is it different than playing in the USL now?

(credit: Philadelphia Union)
A: Compared to most USL teams, it is a lot different. Big stadiums, lots of fans, lots of pressure. But compared to Cincinnati, it is pretty similar. Of course, the level on the field is a step up in MLS but it is not as significant as most people think.

Q: This year wasn't your first run in the US Open Cup as you had been in it before with the Union, how would you describe the run you guys made this year beating Columbus and Chicago and nearly taking down New York as well?

A: We made history in the Open Cup this year. It was an amazing run that I wish kept going but it is something I will remember forever. The Chicago Fire game for me will always be special just because of how the game played out. Chances for both teams, penalty kick shootout, and victory in front of 34k fans. Amazing experience.

Q: What do you think of Cincinnati's chances of getting into the MLS?

A: Cincinnati has proven that it is MLS ready. I believe the chances are very high and it is a mistake if they do not get a bid.

Q: Has your personal goal always been to get back to MLS or another top division?

A: I think every player should always strive to play at the highest level they possibly can. So, yes. I would love to make that jump with FC Cincinnati.

Q: You're pretty young at 24 right now and you're playing faster and better than ever with so much potential down the line, do you ever dream of getting called up by the national team some day? They're in desperate need of young talent right now and for the foreseeable future.             

A: It has always been my dream to play for the national team. I am a long ways away from that right now but anything can happen in the soccer world and things change pretty quickly. It is a long-term goal and dream of mine. Crazier things have happened.

Q: Moving onto the team, Coach Koch mentioned once that some players have difficulty adjusting from playing in front of 30,000 fans in Nippert, to just a few hundred in some of their away games. Do you find it difficult to get hyped for games with small crowds or is every game the same to you?

A: It is the same for me. I go out and give it my all every game no matter what. The games are different in front of smaller crowds though, no doubt. There is a different energy in the stadium when there are 35k people screaming and cheering. There is no arguing that. But we are professionals and need to be up to play in any environment. They all count for the same amount of points.

(credit: City Beat)

Q: The team currently sits at 6th place just above the red line. With four games remaining (all four on the road) and 12 points on the line, do you think the team is poised to make a good run at the end of the season to climb the table even more and secure a playoff spot?

A: Absolutely. I believe in this team and I believe we will make the playoffs. This league is all about peaking at the right time. In 2015, I played on loan for the Harrisburg City Islanders and we snuck into the playoffs as the last seed and made it all the way to the finals. It is about getting hot at the right time.

Q: Do you think the sudden growth of soccer here in Cincinnati is representative of what's happening in the whole country or is it just one lucky instance?

A: I do think [it] is a representation of the whole country but I also do think what is happening here in Cincinnati is something special. I think all the pieces to the puzzle came together here and has made something amazing. But the growth is evident throughout the country and you can see many different examples of that.
(credit: Cincy Shirts)                        
Q: I think part of the reason the fans are so passionate is because the players give back. After games, you guys are signing autographs and taking pictures and having little conversations with everyone and the fans love it. They see the passion on and off the field. Being a favorite among the fans, how does it feel to have such a supportive fan base and seeing people with your name on the back of their customized jerseys?

A: It is incredible. The fan support is something else and something that means so much to all of us. That truly is the dream, having the support and love of the fans like we have. It is a family environment here and I have met so many amazing people. The least we can all do is stick around and sign autographs for everyone. It puts a smile on my face and is extremely flattering. I just hope we can inspire the young players watching and can help ignite their passion and dreams. That's my goal.

Q: What are your favorite things to do outside of soccer?

A: I love to read. I play a lot of video games. I enjoy hanging out with my friends and beating them in Settlers of Catan.

Q: I wanna get your opinion on this, I told Andrew (Weideman) that he looks just like Brad Pitt from Fight Club and he couldn't believe it (though appreciated the compliment), what's your hot take?

A: Oh boy... his head is already big enough, you can't be telling him these things...


(credit: Motley Health & Wikipedia)

Q: Finally, I found a pretty interesting stat on of all places saying that you played the cello for four years in high school. Do you ever break that thing out anymore or think about incorporating it into a goal celebration?

A: That is an incredible idea, I can't believe I haven't thought of that! Imagine having a cello waiting for me at the corner flag... I think we are on to something! I haven't played since high school and always think about playing again. It is something I am going to try to do in the offseason. Who knows, maybe I will even play the national anthem before a game next year!

I want to thank Jimmy for taking the time to answer my questions as well as giving some pretty great answers. If you enjoyed the piece, check out our other interviews with Danni KonigAodhan Quinn, and Head Coach Alan Koch. If you want more interviews, let us know who you would like to see next @BaileyBanter on Twitter, and you can reach me @R_Taulbee.

(image credit: Brotherly Game)