USL: John Harkes is fired as FC Cincinnati coach

FC Cincinnati is one the feel-good stories of recent years, a team that caught fire in a city where soccer struggled and broke all USL attendance records. But the face of the franchise, former U.S. national team captain John Harkes, was fired as head coach on the eve of the team's trip to Florida in preseason and replaced by Alan Koch.

Harkes had been coaching the team as recently as Thursday. But the next evening FC Cincinnati released a statement that he had been relieved of his duties and replaced by Koch.

FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding issued the following statement:

"We wish John all the best and thank him for his efforts in our inaugural year. We believe we have an exciting team and look forward to a special season with our fans at Nippert Stadium. Alan Koch is a respected and experienced leader, who takes over head coaching duties and will continue preparing the team for the season that begins with tomorrow’s trip to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Alan leads by example, is a strong communicator and has established very clear expectations for himself and the players. We feel his disciplined approach will be key for a successful season."

Harkes led FC Cincinnati to third place in the Eastern Conference, but it was upset by Charleston in the conference quarterfinals before a USL record crowd of 30,187. Koch had been hired as assistant coach and director of scouting and analytics in the offseason after serving as head coach of Vancouver Whitecaps 2, which reached the 2016 USL Western Conference final.

"Coaching changes are not uncommon in the sporting world and many of them are difficult," added Berding. "Timing is also a consideration and we made this decision to give our new head coach time to prepare with the team for the upcoming season. I want to express my appreciation to our owners, players and staff for their support of this decision and handling a challenging situation with professionalism.”

On Sunday, Harkes issued the following statement:

"Although my time here was cut short prematurely, I am extremely proud of this team, the work I put in and all the accomplishments of the players and coaching staff of the inaugural season in the USL. To build something from scratch was special. From the time I signed my contract, a full eight months prior to the first match, the process of building a team, creating a relationship with the fans and the city, drawing on the passion of the city and its soccer community, and creating a major league soccer environment in a major league city was completely gratifying. 

"I thank God for the life he has given me and all the blessings in it, especially my family and friends. Their unconditional sacrifice, love and support has been incredible. I would like to thank Carl Lindner III and the entire Lindner family and the owners for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.  I want to recognize the inaugural group of players for taking a leap of faith and congratulate each one of you for creating a special atmosphere for the fans. To the players we worked so hard to bring in this year, I'm disappointed that I didn't have a chance to work with you but perhaps our paths will cross again. To the soldiers in the front office who worked tirelessly, thank you. And finally, to the incredible fans and supporter groups of FC Cincinnati - you are some of the most passionate and educated supporters that I have been around as a player and coach! Keep supporting and growing the game we all love."

5 comments about "USL: John Harkes is fired as FC Cincinnati coach".
  1. BJ Genovese, February 19, 2017 at 1:11 a.m.

    Don't worry, his kid will still make it to the national team cause you know.... that's how players get all the breaks here in the USA.

  2. Ric Fonseca, February 20, 2017 at 1:29 p.m.

    BJ Genovese> Thank you for your keen and insightful observation. And here I thought that nepotism was relegated to other countries, and yet, time and again we see the sons/daughters of former coaches get the breaks...

  3. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, February 20, 2017 at 2:27 p.m.

    They seem to deserve it, too.

  4. Nalin Carney, February 20, 2017 at 3:49 p.m.


  5. David Blenko, February 20, 2017 at 7:18 p.m.

    Character and integrity are keys for a top leadership position, Given Harkes' track record in these regards, is it a surprise that this change was made?

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