Recent comments from Carlos Bocanegra and Arthur Blank point to a coaching hire for Atlanta United in the near future. Recent history does not paint a rosy picture of the longevity of that hire.
The mentality of Major League Soccer is evolving, and coaches are not receiving the same level of patience from their clubs as they did in the past. Expansion clubs are no exception to this rule, with the last five expansion club coaches not surviving to complete their second season.
This is the culture that Atlanta United is stepping into next year.
The days of Sigi Schmid and Frank Yallop, who came into their roles with a great deal of respect across the league, appear to be long gone. Yallop was let go in his sixth season with San Jose, while Schmid was just dropped in Seattle in his eighth season at the helm of the Sounders.
Will Atlanta United be like New York City or Montreal and make a change after their first season? Will they be like Orlando or Portland who gave their first manager a run in the second season before firing them? Or, will they be like Vancouver who made a change three months into the inaugural season? These are the last five expansion clubs that precede them.
If you look at how owner Arthur Blank has treated head coaches with the Atlanta Falcons, you could come to a logical conclusion that Atlanta United might be different than previous MLS expansion teams. With the exception of the mistake that was Bobby Petrino who walked away, coaches have generally been given a chance with the Falcons.
Jim Mora lasted three years and was let go partially because of two straight losing seasons and partially because of comments on the radio about his willingness to take the University of Washington’s head coaching job. Mike Smith brought a lot of success and was given opportunities to turn it around after things went south.
The Falcons have also shown a willingness to hire a first time head coach as opposed to someone who has previous experience. All of Arthur Blank’s head coaching hires have been new NFL head coaches.
Of the last five expansion clubs, only Kreis had prior MLS head coaching experience. Teitur Thordarson and Adrian Heath were in their roles in Vancouver and Orlando in the USL before making the move up to MLS. Jesse Marsch and John Spencer were in their first head coaching roles after some experience as assistants.
Will Atlanta United buck the recent MLS trend and hire a coach that reaches a third season? Or, will Arthur Blank’s hires with the Falcons point to a different direction here in Atlanta?