TRANSFER: Stanko Brings Bundesliga, National Team Experience to FC Cincinnati

Image: Ryan Meyer

Caleb Stanko
Age: 25
Position: Defensive Midfielder
From: Holly, Michigan
Former team:  SC Freiburg, currently 13th in Bundesliga (Germany)
Market Value: $455K
Deal: International transfer – terms not disclosed
Tranfermarkt Profile

Having climbed the rungs within the German leagues, defensive midfielder Caleb Stanko signed with FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, joining for the 2019 season. The 25-year-old spent most of his career with Bundesliga club SC Freiburg’s reserve squad, starting the climb in 2011 and producing 3 goals and 8 assists in 100 total appearances.

While Stanko only appeared 13 times with the parent squad, he was with SC Freiburg during their banner 2015-16 championship year in the second tier of the German league. Freiburg then loaned Stanko to FC Vaduz for the 2016-17 season, where he tallied 21 starts and 7 substitutions for the Liechtenstein club. However, a meniscus injury in his right knee sidelined Stanko for much of 2018. His only official minutes after the injury came in a game with the SC Freiburg II team in December.

Stanko was present at FC Cincinnati’s first training session at Sheakley on Tuesday but was limited to fitness and footwork drills. This was not due to injury, but solely because his paperwork and transfer documents were not yet complete. He is fully fit per the FC Cincinnati front office and is a full participant in Wednesday’s training session.

Listen to Stanko talk about his move to the Germany at the age of 18.

U.S. National Team

Stanko’s work rate as a teenager got him called into several camps with the U.S. youth national team. Then, his move to Freiburg at age 18 caught the attention of then-U-23 coach Caleb Porter before the 2012 Olympic qualifiers. He didn’t make Porter’s team but he did impress U-20 coach Tab Ramos. Stanko, playing as a central defender, helped the U-20 squad qualify for the U-20 World Cup in 2013. Stanko captained that team. His only appearance with the full men’s national team was as a substitute in a September 2016 World Cup qualifier, a 4-0 win versus Trinidad & Tobago. He came on for Sasha Kljestan in the 73rd minute.

While much of his work has been in a defensive role (3 goals and 10 assists in all 141 professional matches), Stanko should bring knowledge of national and international systems to stabilize the defensive midfield. Ives Galarcep at Goal.com believes that he could be inserted alongside Fatai Alashe or Victor Ulloa in the middle, which could free up newly-acquired Allan Cruz to play a more offensive role. While he’s not the coveted #10 that FCC wanted in Matias Fernandez, he is a capable #6, and is a comparable target to Ozzie Alonso, who moved to Minnesota United.

Alan Koch spoke about Stanko’s signing and his new home with FC Cincinnati.

“I’m happy to add Caleb to our roster. We look for versatility in our central midfielders and we feel he can fill a number of roles depending on the personnel we have on the pitch. We look forward to Caleb competing immediately within our group.”

Fun Fact: Caleb Stanko and Fatai Alashe, both 25-year-old Michigan natives, played together at US Development Academy club Vardar Academy. Here’s a match report from the 2010 USDA Finals Week.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press as FC Cincinnati’s squad takes shape for their first MLS season.

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