Becoming the new coach of a soccer team will normally see the new hire be anxious to get the ball rolling with the club’s first match under their watch. That’s the case for new FC Edmonton coach Alan Koch, but perhaps that excitement is even more pronounced in his case.
“It’s been too long, to be frank,” he told Global News this week as the Eddies prepare for the 2021 Canadian Premier League season. “We’re excited to play.
“It is what it is. We’ve all lived through this pandemic and all the different challenges and the ups and downs, and I think just getting the opportunity to play right now is something myself, our staff (and) our players are incredibly excited about.”
The CPL has announced its teams will start the season later in June with a month’s worth of matches in Winnipeg while adhering to strict COVID-19 rules and protocols. The league is hopeful that teams will be able to play in front of fans in their home markets later in the season.
Like for so many professional sports leagues, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the CPL to adapt to the evolving health crisis. Last year, its teams competed in an abbreviated season in a so-called bubble on Prince Edward Island. FC Edmonton finished the season with a dismal 0-6-1 record. Koch was hired to replace Jeff Paulus as the team’s coach in the fall after Paulus resigned from his position in September.
Koch said the team will travel to Winnipeg on June 21. At that point, players and staff will undergo COVID-19 testing before being given two days to train ahead of their first match on June 26, a game which Koch said “will be very interesting.”
“We’ve had intra-squad games … tried to simulate playing against (other teams),” he said. “(But) you get tired of kicking your mates. You want to go play someone else.
“Going and playing outside competition is what this game is really all about.
“We’re as best prepared as we can possibly be under the conditions.”
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Koch suggested the unique circumstances also led to some unique opportunities for taking over the club.
“We’ve had to follow the rules to go from individual training — which was good for me being a new coach of a club, getting to know the players on an individual basis — so we turned that into a positive,” he said.
“We got into bigger units and then finally, when we were fully able to train, it was great. It was fantastic.”
Koch said his players have been able to fully train together as a complete team for several weeks now after permission to do so was granted by Alberta Health Services.
‘I’ve liked our progression,” he said. “We’re going to go and give it everything we can.”
–With files from The Canadian Press’ Neil Davidson
Watch below: Some Global News videos about FC Edmonton.