Days after one of FC Cincinnati’s top players made public complaints about the team’s “lack of identity,” the club has relieved coach Alan Koch of his duties.
FCC president and general manager Jeff Berding said in a press release the change in direction stemmed from a deterioration of the team culture, which became apparent when Koch began commenting on the need for new players and later when designated player Fanendo Adi made some harsh comments about the direction of the club following a 1-0 loss at San Jose on Saturday.
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The Orange and Blue (2-7-2) have lost five straight games and six of their last seven and haven’t scored a goal from open play in more than a month, a stretch that spans more than 600 minutes of competition. The last goal came on a penalty kick April 7 in a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City.
“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 press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“This decision is not driven by recent game results themselves, but rather the underpinnings that have led to those results. We have not come close to maximizing the talent we have in the dressing room this year, nor have we seen a foundation being built that will set us up for success this year and into next year. Our whole locker room is committed to our club goal of earning an MLS postseason bid, and we need to put them in the best position to do so.”
FCC hired Koch in December 2016 to serve as an assistant to then-head coach John Harkes for the team’s second season. However, the front office fired Harkes on the eve of a preseason trip to Florida for the Orange and Blue’s first competition ahead of the 2017 campaign and promoted Koch.
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Koch led FCC to two playoff appearances, an improbable run to the 2017 U.S. Open Cup semifinals and a dominant 2018 performance that resulted in the United Soccer League regular-season title. Shortly after Major League Soccer awarded Cincinnati an expansion franchise last May, FCC gave Koch a contract extension to keep him on board through the 2020 season.
Berding said he believed Koch had ample time to build the culture expected, and it was clear the situation wasn’t going to get any better unless a coaching change was made.
“It’s still early enough in the year, Berding said. “We believe in this group of players. … This is a quality group and we have plenty of time to build on those talents and build on that mentality to get results.”
Now, FCC is searching for its third coach in three years. According to the press release, an international search has begun for the club’s next head coach. In the meantime, assistant coach Yoann Damet will serve in the role of interim head coach. Damet, 29, joined FC Cincinnati in March 2017 from the Montreal Impact organization and has served as the team’s top assistant coach since.
As interim coach, Damut will take on the title of youngest head coach in the MLS. He’s also only one of two coaches in the MLS to have never stepped onto the pitch as a professional or collegiate player, according to the MLS.
“The focus is to build a positive culture,” Berding said. “We feel Yoann Damet brings a positive energy. He brings respect, he is someone who is trusted among the staff and players and is someone we believe will collectively get the best out of the players. At the end of the day we are where we are, and we decided it was time to make the change.”
FCC hosts Montreal on Saturday.