Despite being named the new FC Edmonton boss in late November, Alan Koch is of course yet to manage a CPL game.
A lot of those six months have been spent patiently waiting for matches to return, and now they finally have a date to circle on their calendars — June 26th. FC Edmonton will take on Atlético Ottawa in the opening match of the season at 2 pm ET, 12 pm MT (live on OneSoccer).
With the new season rapidly approaching, Koch caught up with CanPL.ca to discuss his long awaited debut.
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FC Edmonton looking forward to getting back on the pitch
After a rocky 2020 season, which saw the team finish at the bottom of the standings, The Eddies are one of four teams that have only played seven times since October 2019.
It’s hard to judge them off just seven matches, especially after some roster turnover, but like every team, they’ll be going to Winnipeg hoping to get off to a hot start.
“We’re incredibly excited about playing games,” Koch told CanPL.ca. “It’s obviously been an incredibly long offseason.
“It’s a big challenge playing games without having any preseason contests, or any appropriate preparation, but under the circumstances we’re all looking forward to competing.”
Koch, as was an advantage for HFX’s Stephen Hart last year, has some experience coaching in single-site environments. Most recently, in that regard, he coached Canada at the 2013 Maccabiah Games, leading them to a bronze medal.
“I’ve coached at international competitions, so I’m familiar with going and staying in the same hotel for an extended period of time and playing games, but I’ve never been in a sequestered bubble before,” said Koch.
After the Island Games, teams may be more prepared for bubble environments like this.
“I think all of the other teams will be,” said Koch. “I think I’m the only head coach that wasn’t in that bubble last year.
“That’s a challenge, but I think I’ve had enough diverse experience in my career that I think I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to go into this bubble.”
Return to training
As has been the case across the country, health guidelines in Alberta have limited FC Edmonton’s ability to train as a full team, but after patiently waiting out stages of limited training, the club are finally back as a whole.
“Our training has been very progressive, following provincial health guidelines,” Koch said. “We started with one-on-one training, then we progressed to small groups, then we progressed to bigger groups, and now we’ve been able to train fully as a group for the past few weeks.
“It’s been very systematic, very stringent because we’ve had to follow all the health protocols.”
Koch says that training is going well, but he needs games to really assess what he has.
“The group has improved, but you need to play games to get a gauge of how we look as a team and which players are progressing,” he said.
Getting in front of fans (hopefully)
After the initial bubble in Winnipeg, the plan is for teams to return to their home stadiums, if the health situation allows it.
The hope is, at least in some capacity, that fans can return to the stands.
“That’s what we’re all in this business for,” Koch said. “The game is about having people together, and about the event.
Koch said that watching the United States and Mexico square off in the Concacaf Nations League final on Sunday night — in front of a crowd of 37,648 people — was a reminder of the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The excitement I got just watching the game is something that is very important in our game,” he said. “We cannot wait to come back to Edmonton and play in front of our fans. Hopefully we can embrace that and put on a good show.”
Eddies roster nearing completion
Speaking to CanPL.ca on Monday, Koch said that a new signing was “going to come out in the next few days,” revealed on Wednesday to be American centre-back Hunter Gorskie.
Gorskie, who will turn 30 on June 27th, the day after Edmonton’s first game of the season, is an experienced defender who has played in several American leagues, as well as stints in Denmark and Poland.
That leaves FC Edmonton’s roster with 21 players on their 2o21 roster, with two spots left to fill.