Welcome to A Dirty South Soccer Conversation. In this series two of our esteemed writers go back and forth discussing a certain topic related to Atlanta United. In this edition, Rob Usry and Brendan Joseph will be going tit-for-tat about the club hiring its first ever manager. Sit back and enjoy these two blogging icons match wits in a battle for your approval.
Rob: The European club season is winding down and Darren Eales has stated several times that this is probably the time frame that we'd start to see movement on the manager front. Do you think this is a clear sign that they favor signing a European manager or are they just keeping all of their options open before committing to one?
Brendan: I think they're keeping all of their options open, BUT they have someone in mind. There was that Josh Wolff rumor from Grant Wahl a few months back and Jason Kreis is available. However, despite the plethora of decent American options available (and maybe we can add Jesse Marsch to that list by the summer), I think they go European manager. I don't have a good reason, it's just my feeling. What I want to know is who will be setting the style of play. Will there be a defined "Atlanta United system" established by Eales and Carlos Bocanegra or will the coach be determining that? And if so, what does that mean for the coaching options?
Rob: My belief is that last week's revelation by MLSSoccer about Atlanta United's desire to implement analytics tells us a lot about their intentions. It would make no sense to use analytics to bring in certain types of players if they didn't have a style in mind. My hope is that they'll be on the hunt for a manager to adapt to their plans and not the opposite. The analytics specialist they've brought in is from an English team. The rumored Youth Academy Director has a vast background in England. Eales' comfort zone seems to be plucking staff members from where he knows best. If I had money to bet, I'd put it on someone with Premier League or Championship experience.
Brendan: You bring up the idea of a foreign manager in Major League Soccer and people get spooked. "Only one foreign manager has won MLS Cup" (Gary Smith with the Colorado Rapids in 2009) and "Remember that guy who came in and did horrible and didn't understand the rules?" and "Only Americans can understand the complexities of MLS." If they bring in an international manager, I expect to hear a lot of that. Is it fair? I don't know. The league has changed a lot, the salary cap has opened up relative to what it used to be, and teams with a base of Homegrown players find success. I think a foreign manager can work in Atlanta, but it'll come down to (a) the manager (obviously), (b) the infrastructure (of which Atlanta seems to be nailing), and (c) luck.
Rob: I think a bigger factor than experience or nationality is that of longevity. Let's face it. It's likely going to be tough going for Atlanta United for the first season or two. Whether or not their manager is foreign or domestic, they need to be young(ish) and have fresh ideas that can sustain a few bad seasons. The last thing this franchise needs to do is hire a big name coach only to fire him a season in like one team that comes to mind. It just reflects poorly on the whole organization and philosophy. Whoever they pick needs to be for the long haul with the club's overall mindset at the forefront.
Brendan: So what you're saying is, the coach doesn't matter but the organization's patience does. Put your man, whoever he may be and wherever he is from, in a position to succeed and give him a few years to meet the established targets. That's fair. I don't think anybody intends to start with a short-term manager or hire a "build it for someone else" guy, but it sure seems to happen a lot.
I just can't imagine how I'd react if Harry Redknapp came walking through that door wearing a black, red and gold scarf.
Rob: That's what makes trying to guess who it'll be so difficult. All of the established names either have a job already or are way past their best. I wouldn't be surprised at all if it's a guy we've never even heard of and have to travel to Wikipedia land just to find info on. Everyone wants the glamorous name, but as long as they get the right person to fit their philosophy, that's all that matters.
Brendan: Maybe it's someone connected to the rumored academy director. Maybe the person has already been hired and has been doing work behind the scenes. We've already seen evidence of movement with players being signed or confirmed to have been pursued. This is MLS and not the NFL, so secrets can be kept. Nobody is beating down the door or picking through the trash to find out who the first Atlanta United manager is going to be.
If he hasn't been picked already, then the movement to acquire players should at least indicate that Bocanegra has something in mind with regards to style of play. Either way, it's a lot of speculation right now.
Rob: I love speculation as much as anyone, but I cannot wait until the summer gets here and we get some concrete rumors and inevitably the confirmation. It will be a very interesting moment in the club's history.
Brendan: As far as what I consider to be important for Atlanta United it's
3) the manager
2) the players
1) the concessions.
I can deal with a bad manager and a bad team, but so help me I'm not going to do it without a good churro.
Who do you think Atlanta United's first manager will be? Will he be a big name or someone anonymous?