Since FC Cincinnati launched as a USL expansion team a year ago, the team has been led by head coach John Harkes, a man who had come to be synonymous with the thriving club and its record-setting crowds.
Those crowds will have a new coach to cheer for though, as Harkes' tenure with Cincinnati has come to an end. Sources told Goal on Friday that Harkes had been replaced as manager by assistant coach Alan Koch, with the club confirming the moves Friday night.
Sources say that a power struggle between Harkes and FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding led to the abrupt coaching change, which caught players and staff by surprise, especially since Harkes was coaching the team as recently as Thursday.
Harkes could not be reached for comment when Goal attempted to contact him on Friday afternoon.
“After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the FC Cincinnati organization, I have decided to relieve John Harkes of his duties as FCC head coach, effective immediately," Berding said in a team statement.
Harkes, 49, led FC Cincinnati to a respectable third-place finish in USL last year, and the team made headlines for regularly drawing crowds larger than 15,000 to its home venue, Nippert Stadium.
The team's on-field and off-field success have helped it push into the conversation for MLS expansion, with FC Cincinnati being one of the 12 ownership groups to submit an MLS expansion bid.
Koch joined FC Cincinnati in December, arriving to serve as an assistant coach and director of scouting and analytics after having been head coach of Vancouver Whitecaps II. The South African-born former Whitecaps assistant helped lead Whitecaps II to a sixth-place finish and playoff berth in USL in 2016.
What's next for Harkes remains to be seen. The former U.S. national team captain earned plaudits for his work leading the expansion USL side to a successful first season. Harkes' departure from FC Cincinnati comes shortly after his son Ian Harkes turned pro, signing with D.C. United as a homegrown player after winning the MAC Hermann Award as the best player in college soccer.