Firing American coach is emotional for German club

Jürgen Wehlend, the general manager of German third division club VfL Osnabrück, fought back tears as he announced the firing of American coach Joe Enochs. Osnabrück spent most of last season in the promotion race but is currently in the relegation zone. The Californian Enochs had been with the club since he joined as player in 1996.

"This is a bitter day for the VfL,” said Wehlend. “The dismissal of the coach has been unbelievably difficult for us.”

Enochs, the Californian who made a club record 376 appearances as a player for Osnabrück before becoming coach, took the helm in 2015 after serving as the club’s U-19 coach. Last season, Osnabrück was in the promotion zone at the halfway mark but slipped to a sixth-place finish, missing the promotion playoff by 9 points.

This season, Osnabrück managed only two wins in its first 11 games, although it did knock Bundesliga club Hamburg SV out of the German Cup and hosts Nuremberg in the second round on Oct. 25. But it earned only one point in its last four games.

The firing on Wednesday came despite a 5-0 win on Tuesday over Göttingen in a regional cup game, after which defender Adam Susac said, “I can only appeal to the fans to continue supporting us. We fight and give all we can for the club. As far as the coaching discussions, I can 100 percent confirm what captain Halil Savran has said: We all stand behind the coach.”

After Enochs was fired, forward Marcos Alvarez said: “This is not the first time I’ve been on a team when the coach got fired, but it was especially emotional. We were all floored. We had a special relationship with the coach. He knew how to treat each individual. We played well against Göttingen and hoped that maybe he would get one last chance.”

Enochs was a fan favorite in his playing days, during which he helped Osnabrueck earn promotion to the second division and scored a Goal of the Month against Bayern Munich in a 2004 German Cup game.

After last season, the club extended Enochs’ contract through 2020.

Osnabrücker Zeitung columnist Harald Pistorius wrote:

“This was no coaching change like the others — not even at VfL Osnabrück, where very few last through their contract. Most reach the end like Joe Enochs — but the American was and is like no other. …

“One player said after the dismissal that Enochs, ‘couldn’t and didn’t ever want be an asshole, because this was about VfL.’ Probably Enochs has to change if he wants to stay in professional soccer. And maybe it will be easier for him, when he works with a club without carrying a backpack full of emotion, memories and solidarity.”

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