Oka Nikolov has returned to the Union’s coaching staff after a year away and is retaking his old job in charge of the team’s goalkeepers.
The 44-year-old Germany native was on the team’s bench in 2016 and 2017, and helped develop Andre Blake into one of MLS' top netminders. Under Nikolov’s tutelage, Blake won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors in 2016.
“Oka is someone who I respect greatly, and all of our players and staff at the Union will benefit from having him return,” Union manager Jim Curtin said in a statement.
Nikolov left after the 2017 season to join the Los Angeles Galaxy’s staff, and was succeeded by longtime San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley. After this season ended, new sporting director Ernst Tanner wanted to bring in someone else, and Hanley departed amicably.
“His track record across many years coaching and playing speaks for itself,” Tanner said of Nikolov in a statement. "He is a Bundesliga legend, and our club is fortunate to have him return.”
Nikolov was a Union player in 2013, coming to MLS after 20 years with Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt. He never took the field for the Union but liked what he saw here enough to want to come back as a coach.
He got a promotion in his return here. His new title is director of goalkeeping, and he’ll also officially be an assistant coach after being at the end of the bench in his last spell.
“I am happy to be back in Philadelphia,” he said. “I love being a part of this club and I am happy to work with the team. I’d like to thank Ernst and Jim and I am excited to get started again.”