Off the heels of a club-best start to USL play, FC Cincinnati announced head coach Alan Koch’s contract would be extended one year through the 2020 MLS season.
Koch was named FC Cincinnati manager in February of 2017 after the dismissal of then-head coach John Harkes. He and assistant Yoann Damet were rewarded with multi-year extensions on Aug. 3, 2017, following FCC’s quarterfinal U.S. Open Cup victory over Miami FC. While the terms of that deal were not disclosed, FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding mentioned that Koch would be the team’s head coach in MLS during a speech at the MLS bid party on Fountain Square in May. This extension removes some uncertainty for the club and will now allow them to focus on player signings for the 2019 MLS season.
An important piece in the process of building the initial roster is the perception that the club has a long-term plan in place. It is easy to imagine that players could be hesitant to sign for a club with a coach who has one year remaining, wanting some stability and continuity moving into the future. Adding another year to his deal will allow Koch and the club to continue with their process of shaping a quality club on their elevation to the top division of US soccer.
“We’re so pleased that Alan has committed to our club for the extended future,” said managing owner and CEO Carl H. Lindner III. “He is a proven winner and brings so many strengths to our club, including a passion to our Cincinnati community and our fans. It’s been a pleasure to watch him meticulously rebuild our team and foster a new culture over the last two seasons. He’s created a championship mentality in the locker room and we’re excited to know he’ll bring the same enthusiasm and structure to our MLS team as we transition this offseason.”
The Durban, South Africa, native has led FCC to 44 points in 2018, putting them three points better than the club’s 21-match start in 2016. FCC’s 13 wins are tied for best in the USL, and the Orange & Blue are the only Eastern Conference team with double-digit wins. In Koch’s one and a half seasons as Cincinnati’s head coach, he has led the Orange and Blue to a 25-13-15 record in USL regular-season play. In addition to these results, Koch led the club to the 2017 USOC semifinal and the 2018 USOC Fourth Round.
“Alan is a difference-maker and a winner, and we’re excited to know he’ll guide us into our future in Major League Soccer,” Berding said. “We’re thrilled for what he’s produced on the field, leading us to the best record in the USL, a semifinal appearance in the Open Cup and a stellar record against MLS opponents. He has an immense dedication to make our club the pride of the Greater Cincinnati region.
“Alan has embraced our ambition to win championships while also engraining an inclusive and supportive culture in the locker room. With Alan leading us, we’re excited about our chances to win a USL Cup Championship this season as we prepare for our move to MLS,” Berding said.
After a long tenure as a college coach in Canada, Koch spent two seasons as the head coach of Whitecaps FC 2, the former USL team for MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC. While with the Whitecaps FC organization, he also headed Vancouver’s MLS Draft preparations and, in 2016, led Whitecaps 2 to the USL Western Conference Final. Koch has earned his both his UEFA B coaching badge and his Canadian A license, in addition, South Africa’s level 2 certification. Additionally, he is currently completing his final assessment for his USSF A license.
FC Cincinnati will rely immediately on Koch’s roster building expertise alongside technical director Luke Sassano. Having a coach that is familiar with MLS roster rules and procedures will be a benefit going into 2019.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Carl Lindner, our ownership group and Jeff Berding for the opportunity to continue to lead our club into MLS,” Koch said. “This is an incredibly exciting project and, year after year, we continue to put the blocks in place to build something even more special. I look forward to finishing off our USL era in style while simultaneously building our club for our next adventure next season.
“I’d also like to thank the FC Cincinnati fans for their support and passion for our club. We would not be where we are today if we did not have the remarkable support of the Greater Cincinnati community,” Koch said.
This is a solid move as the club will look to lay a strong foundation in the first two seasons in MLS. It will now be on the club to provide coach Koch with the necessary tools and assets to prove he can successfully manage at FC Cincinnati in the long-term. Minnesota United did not provide their first-year manager Adrian Heath with a designated player in their inaugural season that saw them place 19th out of 22 clubs. We do not expect the ownership to fully fund the team with three DP’s immediately, but Sassano did mention they should enter 2019 with at least one and could have the full allotment of three for the 2020 season.
It will be important that the club backs Koch effectively in his first two seasons to help keep him in Cincinnati should he keep the success of 2018. A successful partnership between the club and its manager should help keep any potential suitors at bay going into a new stadium in 2021.
Koch has impressed in his short time in Cincinnati, and the club was wise to keep him locked up for another season. Let’s continue to hope for continued success in 2018, 2019 and beyond so the club and manager can deliver a championship to the Queen City.