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FC Cincinnati fires head coach Alan Koch following ‘deteriorated’ team culture

Former FC Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch reacts to fans after losing 0-2 against Real Salt Lake at Nippert Stadium on April 19, 2019. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

CINCINNATI — After just 11 Major League Soccer matches at the helm, FC Cincinnati relieved head coach Alan Koch of his duties Tuesday. 

Koch becomes the second MLS manager to lose his job in 2019, following Colorado’s firing of Anthony Hudson just under a week ago. 

FC Cincinnati posted a 2-7-2 record in 2019 under Koch. His final days in charge oversaw a five-match losing streak in which his team failed to score a single goal. The manager’s last match in charge ended in a 1-0 loss Saturday to 10-man San Jose Earthquakes. But according to FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding, recent results were not at fault for Koch’s dismissal. 

“After a series of recent issues and a team culture that had deteriorated, we determined that it’s time to make a change to return a club-centered focus to the team,” Berding said in a statement. “This decision is not driven by recent game results themselves, but rather the underpinnings that have led to those results.”

Current assistant coach Yoann Damet has been installed as the interim manager while the club conducts an “international search” for Koch’s replacement. Damet, 29, becomes the youngest manager in MLS history. 

A divide had opened between FC Cincinnati players and Koch, one that appears to have begun during the team’s preparations for the 2019 season. A former FC Cincinnati player during Koch’s tenure in the Queen City described the Koch’s coaching as “lacking identity” and said the team has no “defined style of play.” Another source described the current conditions in the Cincinnati locker room as “toxic.”

Koch himself seemed to point fingers at FC Cincinnati’s front office and players in recent weeks. In particular, the South African’s comments after the team’s 0-2 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday revealed the coach didn’t believe this team was capable of much more.

“We’ve only had one window as a club to find players,” Koch shared after the match. “We have another window now coming up where we need to continue to find players to improve the group.”

Koch was originally hired as FC Cincinnati’s assistant coach and director of scouting and analytics in 2016 under then-head coach John Harkes. It wasn’t long after that he would take over head coaching duties. Just days before the start of the 2017 United Soccer League preseason, Harkes was dismissed following a reported power struggle. Koch was then hand selected by Berding as the successor to take the club forward.

Since then, Koch has accumulated a 35-13-18 USL regular-season record and led FC Cincinnati to the 2018 USL regular season championship. He also oversaw the team’s dramatic run to the semifinals of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, knocking off MLS’ Columbus Crew SC  and Chicago Fire before falling to New York Red Bulls in extra time. Those results saw the coach handed a new contract running through 2020.

But as learned today, Koch no longer will have the opportunity to see it out.

FC Cincinnati will return to action this Saturday when the Montreal Impact visit for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Nippert Stadium.

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