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."