FC Cincinnati defender Nick Hagglund (14) deflects the ball off a shot on goal by Sporting Kansas City midfielder Kelyn Rowe (11) in the first half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, April 7, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Photo: John Minchillo
Photo: John Minchillo

Lakota West grad Hagglund spending time with family, keeping fit during MLS stoppage

FC Cincinnati center back Nick Hagglund is doing his best to stay prepared for whenever the Major League Soccer season resumes, but in between all the individual workouts, the Lakota West High School graduate is keeping busy in other ways.

These days, while MLS has a moratorium on team training through April 24, Hagglund spends the majority of his time entertaining his 2-year-old daughter, Eloise. That in itself sounds like quite the workout for Hagglund, who graduated from West in 2010 and went on to play at Xavier before becoming Toronto FC’s first-round draft pick in 2014.

The West Chester native arranges obstacle courses that he and Eloise navigate together (that usually lasts two hours), they go on hikes and throw rocks, build castles and slides – anything Hagglund can come up with. They’re making the most of the unexpected added time together.

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“I’ve just been busy with her,” Hagglund said on a Zoom conference call with local media Friday, noting if his wife, Mary, wasn’t taking care of Eloise he wouldn’t have been able to manage 20 minutes to participate. “I wake up in the morning, get my workout done, come home, and I’m just hanging out with Lou all day.

“I honestly just think of whatever comes to my mind at the moment. I’m trying not to lean on screen time. You know, everyone’s like, ‘No screen time, no screen time,’ but that is difficult. You know, it’s been long days, but it’s been super fun days. There are no two people I’d rather be cooped up with then Mary and Lou.”

Often Eloise is the source of others’ entertainment as well. Hagglund will send funny clips of her to his teammates in daily group texts, including one recently when he tried to throw a tortilla for her to catch and it landed on her face. He’s known as the team jokester, so Hagglund sends anything to draw a smile.

When Eloise sleeps, Hagglund and his wife watch TV shows together or play board games. Mary is more of an introvert and he’s the extrovert, so they’ve handled the idea of quarantine a little differently, but Hagglund knows these times away from the soccer pitch and busy schedules likely won’t come again for a while.

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“Ultimately, this is time that we get to share with our loved ones in a close (way) that we never get,” Hagglund said. “We don’t have any other distractions to go to, so try to take that positive silver lining in it in this time where things are crazy.”

Hagglund has no idea how long he will be away from formal soccer training with FCC, as MLS keeps extending the training moratorium and Ohio’s stay-at-home order keeps growing in length, now through May 1.

Players and staff assume there will be at least a two-week preseason before games resume, but clubs are operating under a cloud of uncertainty. FCC director of sports performance Gary Walker has assigned individual workouts tailored for each player, depending on his position and needs, and the club handed out equipment to help with balance and weight training drills. The goal, Walker said in a recent interview, is to just maintain strength and fitness during the break, and Hagglund said he’s trying to stay as sharp as possible.

“My job is to just stay prepared and ready to go,” Hagglund said. “To keep my motivation, it’s kind of like, I talk about invisible mornings, mornings that people don’t see the work that you put behind the performance or whatever that people don’t see. And you talk about these invisible mornings that add up to something greater, and so I just think about every morning, this is an opportunity for me to get better. No one’s gonna see what I’m going to be doing, but this is going to motivate me for when I have the opportunity to get on the field again.”

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FCC had played just two games, going 0-2 in those outings at New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United, before MLS suspended the season March 12, originally for 30 days. The stoppage period just seems like the next hurdle for the fledgling club, which went 6-22-6 in its inaugural MLS season last year and already is looking for its third coach in two seasons after Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation that ensued after the use of a racial slur.

Hagglund has a virtual meeting with interim coach Yoann Damet on Wednesday to go over game clips and things to work on, but the 27-year-old center back said it’s hard to reflect too much on those games or even the preseason – even with extended time to do so – because three weeks already have passed since the season was halted and there’s no set restart date.

“This is just a crazy year in general you know?” Hagglund said. “With what’s happened with the coaching situation at the beginning of the year, and now we have coronavirus. Honestly, it’s hard to reflect on anything. … I just feel like it’s been like a reset now, like this has become the norm a little bit. And I think mostly, we’re just like, looking forward — what can we do right now? — because the times are so different now than two months ago, it almost feels like we can’t even relate to one another. So I feel like for us, it’s just like, what can we do right now because the future is unknown. All we can do is work in the present, and I think that’s the most important thing for us right now.”

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