John Harkes (left), talking to FC Dallas’ Fernando Clavijo, was axed as coach of FC Cincinnati. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)

Weeks prior to the start of the United Soccer League season, former U.S. national team captain and head coach John Harkes Friday was sacked as coach of FC Cincinnati.

He was replaced by former Vancouver Whitecaps 2 manager Alan Koch.

Harkes, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, directed Cincy to a 16-8-8 season in its maiden season in 2016.

The team is under consideration as a Major League Soccer expansion team.

“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,” FCC president and general manager Jeff Berding said in a statement. “We wish John all the best and thank him for his efforts in our inaugural year. We believe we have an exciting team and look forward to a special season with our fans at Nippert Stadium.”

Koch will take over the team, which will train at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Sunday. He guided Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 to a Western Conference final. He coached Simon Fraser University to four Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships, two Division II regional titles and to two NCAA Division II Final Four appearances.

“Alan leads by example, is a strong communicator and has established very clear expectations for himself and the players. We feel his disciplined approach will be key for a successful season,” Berding said.

“The ownership group continues to be committed to bringing top-level soccer to Cincinnati. The 2017 season presents a very unique opportunity for FCC to affect and, to a degree, determine our future and we feel this change gives us a technical staff that is in alignment with our vision for the franchise.

“Coaching changes are not uncommon in the sporting world and many of them are difficult. Timing is also a consideration and we made this decision to give our new head coach time to prepare with the team for the upcoming season. I want to express my appreciation to our owners, players and staff for their support of this decision and handling a challenging situation with professionalism.”