While he might not have messed with someone’s wife again, it appears John Harkes royally pissed someone off last night. After just one season in Cincinnati, Toyota John is out of a job.
Our rivals up I-71 pulled the ultimate Friday news dump, as they have confirmed to the Cincinnati Enquirer that the club and Harkes have officially parted ways, less than twenty-four hours before the team is scheduled to leave for spring training in Florida. According to both the Enquirer and Courier-Journal, there was no sign of an issue before this evening, as Harkes led practice on Thursday and spoke with the media about the upcoming trip.
The news, which was first reported around 8 pm Friday evening by Ives Galarcep, is sending ripples through the USL community. Galarcep is reporting that sources have informed him of a “power struggle” between the manager and the front office, which led to the change. However, despite numerous requests from multiple media outlets, nobody within the organization will confirm why this decision was made. With just one month before the start of the new season, this is a shocking development and one that changes the landscape of the USL Eastern Conference. Harkes led the club to a record of 16-8-6 in the regular season, before being knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by the Charleston Battery.
Before Louisville City fans celebrate too much, it’s important to know that FCC might have actually upgraded with this move. The club has confirmed that Alan Koch will take over as the new manager for the entirety of the upcoming 2017 season. Koch, was was just hired as the FCC director of scouting last month,came over after managing Vancouver 2 to the Western Conference Finals last season, and has coaching licenses on three different continents, per Pat Brennan of the Enquirer. When I reached out to Brennan, he had nothing but praise for Koch.
“Alan’s been a key player in some of the major personnel moves this offseason,” Brennan said, “and he has connections throughout world football.” He pointed out that Koch was behind this week’s signing of Djiby Fall, a former striker for Lokomotiv Moscow. Brennan also added that while many fans around Cincinnati are freaking out at the moment, the panic is unwarranted. “This front office has built up the equity because so little of what they’ve done has gone wrong. In fact, almost everything has surpassed expectations. It didn’t work out with Harkes obviously and there’s no covering up for the fact that the timing is bad. But I have to think it really actually is in the best interests of the club if they saw fit to pull the trigger on this.”
Obviously, more details will emerge on the main factors of this decision in the coming days, but this news is quite a change just weeks before the start of the new season. While we will no longer get to make fun of the Toyota John Harkes weekly show, it is too early to know whether this will hurt or help FCC moving forward. One way or another, however, it will play a key role in how the Eastern Conference shakes out this season.