Football Tribe SEA Editor
V.League 1 club Thanh Hoa FC announced on Sunday that they’ve parted ways with head coach Fabio Lopez. This came after Thanh Hoa had lost 4 out of the 5 games that they have played in the 2020 season – 3 in the league and a Vietnamese National Cup game.
There was much excitement when Thanh Hoa announced the appointment of Italian head coach Lopez in November 2019. 46-year old Lopez came to the Thanh Hoa Stadium with a wealth of experience in Asian football – PSMS Medan, the Bangladesh national team, Al-Orouba Sur of Oman, the U-23 team of Al-Ahli Saudi FC, and Borneo FC were a few of the teams that Lopez had took charge of in the past. Lopez was tasked with reviving an ailing Thanh Hoa that had just barely avoided relegation in the 2019 V.League 1 season. To that end, Lopez brought in a number of fresh faces into Thanh Hoa – this include former Ho Chi Minh City FC defender Louis Ewonde of Cameroon, Le Xuan Hung from Hai Phong FC, and most notably of all, V.League 1 all-time top scorer Hoang Vu Samson from defending champions Hanoi FC. Although he has been declining slightly as of late, Samson’s acquisition was seen as a huge coup for Thanh Hoa, and surely the Lam Son Warriors were confident that they could turn things around in the 2020 season.
However, as the 2020 season came back into life after a brief suspension brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Thanh Hoa found themselves in dire straits once again. They had only won one of their five games so far in the 2020 season – a last-minute 2-1 win away at V.League 2 side Pho Hien FC in the first round of the 2020 Vietnamese National Cup. Thanh Hoa’s other four games ended in defeat – the Lam Son Warriors were eliminated from the cup by fellow V.League 1 side Becamex Binh Duong, while defeats from Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City, and Quang Nam FC meant that Thanh Hoa are joint-bottom of the 2020 V.League 1 table. The defeat from Quang Nam at Tam Ky served as the last straw for the Thanh Hoa management, and they announced Lopez’s dismissal one day after the match.
With Lopez out of the picture, Thanh Hoa have plans of bringing in Nguyen Thanh Cong as his replacement. Thanh Cong was previously the manager of Sai Gon FC, leading the Ho Chi Minh City-based side to a lofty 5th place in the 2019 season. It is expected that Thanh Cong will sign a contract with Thanh Hoa in the coming days and he should lead the Lam Son Warriors in their next league match, a home game against Song Lam Nghe An on June 12th.
2-time V.League 1 runners-up Thanh Hoa are currently undergoing a steep decline after the departure of longtime sponsor FLC Group. Without the FLC Group’s wealth backing them up, Thanh Hoa lost a number of their key players in the build-up towards the 2019 season, which saw the 2018 runners-up free-falling to 13th place at the end of that season. The 13th place finish meant that Thanh Hoa had to play a play-off game against 2019 V.League 2 runners-up Pho Hien for a place in the 2020 V.League 1, which Thanh Hoa won 1-0 to retain their place in the top flight.