There’s a new man in charge at FC Edmonton.
The Eddies unveiled Alan Koch as their new head coach and Director of Football Operations on Tuesday, a move that sees the club officially move on from the Jeff Paulus era. Koch becomes the fifth coach in FCE history dating back to the team’s tenure in the NASL.
FC Edmonton hired Koch following a two-month search to replace Paulus, who stepped down from his position as coach in September after the Eddies went winless (with six losses) in seven matches and finished in last place at this summer’s Island Games in PEI.
Koch, a 45-year-old native of South Africa, will work alongside Eric Newendorp, who was officially unveiled as FC Edmonton’s new general manager and club president earlier this month.
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“It is a privilege to join FC Edmonton and I am grateful to (team owner) Tom Fath and Eric Newendorp for this opportunity,” Koch said in a news release.
“I look forward to building on from the foundations that are already in place, and assessing the areas that we need to adjust to have the required success in this new league. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I am confident that we can have success with the club.”
Koch arrives in Edmonton with vast experience, having previously coached in MLS and the USL – he was in charge of FC Cincinnati in both leagues from 2017 to 2019. Two years ago, he led Cincinnati to a USL Regular Season Championship and a spot in the playoffs. He was also named USL Coach of the Year at the end of the 2018 season.
He found the going much tougher in MLS, as Cincinnati stumbled out of the gate in its debut season in 2019, and he was let go after 11 games with the team sitting on a 2-7-2 record. Most recently, Koch was in charge of USL Championship side Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
Koch also has deep ties to Canadian soccer. He immigrated from South Africa to Canada in 1990, and was a star player for Simon Fraser University. After a pro career that saw him ply his trade in South Africa, Germany and Ireland, he turned to coaching, and eventually took charge of his alma mater, Simon Fraser University.
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In 2015, he became the head coach of Whitecaps2 in the USL and took them to Western Conference final the following season. Notably, Koch gave current Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies his first minutes as a professional at the age of 15 during the 2016 season. Davies graduated to the Whitecaps’ senior team and made his MLS debut that same year before being sold to Bayern.
It was Koch’s coaching experience and vast network of contacts in the soccer world that made him an ideal candidate to replace Paulus, according to team owner Tom Fath.
“We spoke extensively about everything the club needs to change in order to win. Alan understands it and is up for the challenge. We are confident he will do great things here in Edmonton,” Fath said in a news release.
That’s easier said than done, and the daunting task facing Koch shouldn’t be downplayed.
The Eddie are coming off a miserable 2020 campaign, in which they finished bottom of the table following a seven-match run at The Island Games. With six losses and one draw, Edmonton was the only team that failed to earn a win in PEI. FCE also sported the worst attack (five goals) and worst defence (14 conceded) at the tournament.
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Paulus left a promising core of youngsters in place before his departure, but thus far FC Edmonton has only re-signed three players for next season: midfielders Antony Caceres and Chance Carter, and forward Marcus Velado-Tsegaye.
With Paulus gone, this is now Koch’s team to shape and mould, and build into a contender. Before the hiring of Koch, Newendorp told CanPL.ca he would leave the bulk of the player personnel and roster composition decisions to the incoming coach.
“I’m not a GM because I’m a former player, I’m not a trained professional soccer coach,” Newendorp said. “I’ve hired coaches, I’ve worked player contracts, I’ve watched a lot of professional soccer matches, I know enough to have an educated opinion.
“But I’m not a soccer coach, I don’t come from that track. So we’ll rely heavily on our head coach to be a part of that process to build that roster and really take the lead on that, and I’ll come in where I’m needed.”