Alan Koch has a big job on his hands; to turn around the fortunes of a last-place club.
By Steven Sandor | November 24, 2020
FC Edmonton is entering its third season in the Canadian Premier League, and its 11th season of operation going back to its days as part of the North American Soccer League. It is the oldest, most-established club in the CPL.
Yet, over those years, it has only made the NASL playoffs twice, and hasn’t made the post-season in the CPL. In fact, over this past season’s “Island Games,” which saw the eight CPL teams gather in Prince Edward Island to play a condensed COVID schedule, the Eddies didn’t win a game, and finished in last place.
So, Alan Koch, the new head coach and director of football operation, knows he has a big task ahead.
“This is a project,” he said Tuesday. But he’s confident that “we can flip this thing on its head.”
To be frank, FC Edmonton hasn’t captured the imagination of the city’s sports fans, it hasn’t got enough of the share of the entertainment dollar, because the team hasn’t won enough well-regarded academy which brings up local talent and prepares them for pro careers. That has been a philanthropic effort from owners Tom and Dave Fath. And the team has prided itself on the number of players who were raised in Edmonton who ended up wearing the blue jerseys on the field.
But, while Koch allows that transforming the team is “not going to happen overnight,” he has a simple answer.
“I came in to win … The struggles of the last year is something that motivates me.”
So, while he wants to engage local talent, he’s not willing to promise that he’s going to use local players as much as previous coaches have. He’s also not going to guarantee that he’s going to use less local talent. Basically, what he is saying is that players will need to prove themselves and that they will fit into the style of soccer he wants the Eddies to play. Again, the goal is to win. This echoes the words of new team president and general manager Eric Newendorp, who has said that the core product — the team on the field — has to improve. Playing a winless season three time zones away in Prince Edward Island did not help the team’s profile at all in 2020.
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Koch said that “I may need to go source some players” to find the creativity he needs on the field, and that FCE needs players “that captivate the market.”
Koch was born in South Africa, but is a Canadian citizen. He’s coached throughout Canada and North America. He won four straight conference championships with Simon Fraser University, the Canadian school that competes in the American NCAA. He coached Edmonton’s own Alphonso Davies with WFC2, the feeder club to the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps. Davies is now an international superstar with Bayern Munich. He’s won regular-season titles in the United Soccer League — the second tier of pro soccer in the United States. He also coached FC Cincinnati in Major League Soccer, and coached Team Canada at the Maccabiah Games, an international competition for Jewish athletes.