In the above video, newly-minted FC Edmonton coach Alan Koch speaks to CanPL.ca’s Marty Thompson about upcoming plans, his relationship with Pacific FC coach Pa-Modou Kah, and more.
Alan Koch has learned to take what he can get in the age of COVID-19.
FC Edmonton’s newest coach planned to visit Alberta’s capital and his new team this week, but travel restrictions have kept him and his family in British Columbia. It’s an improvement for the Koch clan, who faced a similar situation this summer when Alan and his wife were stranded while he was coaching USL side Colorado Springs Switchback FC.
“Speaking with [FC Edmonton general manager] Eric Newendorp, I’m going to try to get there next week for a few days to see and do as many things as we can,” Koch told CanPL.ca. “There’s a lot of work to do. I don’t think we’re shy about saying that.”
Koch, 45, was recently unveiled as the replacement for Jeff Paulus, who stepped down in September after the Eddies went winless (with six losses) in seven matches and finished in last place at The Island Games in PEI. Koch’s first week on the job, while not in Edmonton, has seen him catching up with FCE players on the 2020 squad to see who will return, a job left to him by newly-hired GM Eric Newendorp.
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“We’re assessing the playing group, really, before starting to figure out exactly what we need player-wise to bring them in and create a hybrid group, to be quite frank,” Koch said. “There are some good pieces in place in Edmonton. We want to retain some and supplement with other players that can get us over the hump.
“We’re trying to get through as many assessments as quickly as possible. There are a lot of players out of contract, obviously, so there are no guarantees that even if we want them that they want to stay.”
Koch is also evaluating his backroom staff, saying: “We want to put our staff in place… We’re trying to assess what we have and see if we can source others.”
The South African gaffer has previous MLS and USL coaching experience with FC Cincinnati, and he also coached at Simon Fraser University. Mix in two seasons with Whitecaps FC 2, a program that’s produced dozens of CPL players, and you have a CV that’s perfect for the CPL.
While his alma mater Simon Fraser competes in NCAA, Koch acknowledged the impact players from universities have had on FC Edmonton – CPL-U SPORTS Draft picks Easton Ongaro and Connor James are at the top of that list.
“This league is so new that we have to be open to wherever we can get players from,” Koch stated. “That’s definitely the mentality for us. We’re going with an open mind and open hearts, and we’re going to go look for places and try sourcing from wherever we can.”
As for Koch’s time in MLS, he’s rightfully reserved about how he parted ways with FC Cincinnati last May after the team started the 2019 season with a 2-7-2 record. Before that, he led Cincinnati to a USL Regular Season Championship and a spot in the playoffs, and he was also named USL Coach of the Year at the end of the 2018 season.
“The only time I have been unsuccessful as a coach was those 11 games in MLS,” Koch said. “You can learn by winning, but you can learn by when you have tough moments, too. That probably was my toughest moments on this coaching journey.”
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Koch has deep connections in Canadian soccer, specifically in the Western provinces. He also has the rare experience of blooding Canadians to the professional game with Whitecaps 2. Along with famously giving Alphonso Davies his professional debut, Koch also worked alongside Marco Bustos, Terran Campbell, and Victor Blasco. He brought current Pacific FC coach Pa-Modou Kah to FC Cincinnati in 2019 as an assistant.
“We really struggled with that group in Year 1,” Koch explained. “A lot of the guys realized what professional football was about. In 2016, we took that young team to the USL Western Conference final, and I think that was a big, big part of their development.”
Koch has been impressed by Kah’s impact on the CPL after taking Pacific FC to round two of The Island Games.
“I’m very happy and proud of the work that he’s done. He has a great heart as well. I’m sure we’ll have some good laughs when we face each other. We may yell at each other during the game, but we’ll definitely hug and make up afterwards,” Koch said.