Well, it’s happening. There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the long-awaited managerial hire for Atlanta United. ESPNFC.com is reporting that Atlanta United is currently in talks with both Gerardo “Tata” Martino and former Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid.
“Tata” Martino comes as no surprise. Rumors surfaced earlier last week that he was a potential candidate for the head coaching position. However, perhaps a small surprise is the revelation that Sigi Schmid interviewed with the club last week. Many believed that Schmid would be on the shortlist of potential suitors when he left the Sounders in July, but there were no rumors or signs that Atlanta United had any contact with him, that is until now.
Now that we have a couple names to go on, it’s only fitting to see what we could expect from both coaching candidates.
Gerardo Martino is a big name coach. Like really big. He’s coached at some of the biggest clubs in the world that include some of the best players in the world. He began his head coaching career in 1998, but his success really began in 2002 when he won the Paraguayan Primera Division with Libertad. Martino went on to win the league three of the next four seasons as well, with two other clubs.
In 2007, Martino became the head coach of the Paraguayan national team, and led them to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup, the best result they have ever had at the tournament. A year later, Paraguay reached the finals of the 2011 Copa America, their best result in 32 years.
After stepping down as the coach of Paraguay, he joined Newell’s Old Boys, an Argentine club where Martino holds the record for most appearances as a player with 392. He took over midway through the season, when Newell’s Old Boys were dangerously close to relegation. However, Martino managed to save them from relegation, and in fact, led them to the Argentine Primera Division title the very next season as well as the semi-finals of Copa Libertadores.
His success in Argentina caught the eye of Barcelona. In 2013, he was confirmed as the head coach of one of the most recognizable clubs in the world. He kicked off his tenure with an unbeaten streak of 20 matches, a club record. Unfortunately, the end of the streak led to a string of poor results and a runner-up finish to Atletico Madrid the final day of the season. Martino announced his resignation after just one year in charge.
His most recent job came as head coach of the Argentine national team, where they would finish runner-ups at both the 2015 Copa America and the Copa America Centenario. This again led to Martino’s resignation.
As for tactics, Martino loves to play an attacking style of soccer based on quick passing(dare i say, tiki-taka). However, probably the most important tactical trait Martino has distinguished himself with throughout his coaching career is his willingness to play teenagers, something that Atlanta United President Darren Eales has stressed when discussing the qualities the inaugural coach must have. This has to be one of the key details to Martino that makes him so appealing for the job.
Sigi Schmid has to be one of the first coaches people think of when they think MLS. He’s won the most regular season matches in MLS history, and is second in MLS playoff wins. Schmid began his coaching career at UCLA in 1980. In 1991, he was chosen to be the United States U-20 national team head coach as well as an assistant to the senior national team while still maintaining his commitment to UCLA.
After 19 seasons at UCLA, where he won the 1985 national championship and reached 16 consecutive national playoffs, Schmid became the head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Throughout his tenure, he managed the Galaxy to a CONCACAF Champion’s Cup in 2000, U.S. Open Cup in 2001, and the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in 2002. After five years in charge, Schmid was fired.
In 2006, the Columbus Crew hired Schmid after one of their worst seasons in team history. The struggle continued under Schmid for his first two seasons as head coach. However, a dramatic improvement in 2008 resulted in a Supporters’ Shield and an MLS Cup. After their successful season, Schmid declined a contract extension with Columbus and instead became coach of the new expansion franchise, Seattle Sounders FC.
In the Seattle Sounders’ inaugural season, Schmid led them to a U.S. Open Cup title and a playoff berth, becoming the first expansion team in 11 years to make the playoffs. The Sounders would go on to win the U.S. Open Cup the following two seasons under Schmid, becoming the first team in 43 years to win the Cup three consecutive seasons. The next three seasons under Schmid were a disappointment, with Seattle not managing a single trophy. However, in 2014 he led the Sounders to another U.S. Open Cup win and the first Supporters’ Shield in club history. This would be the last trophy for Schmid in Seattle, as he left the club on mutual terms in 2016 after a poor start to the season.
Sigi Schmid has faced criticism throughout his coaching career when it comes to tactics. During his time with the Galaxy, General Manager Doug Hamilton said that “a more entertaining and attractive product on the field” was needed. During his last season in Seattle, pundits speculated his termination was due to poor tactics and a history of mismanaging skilled players. However, Schmid has always been known as an excellent defensive coach. Though it isn’t necessarily exciting, at times it was certainly effective.
What will attract Atlanta United to Sigi Schmid is his wealth of experience in the MLS. He knows what to expect from such a unique league, something “Tata” Martino doesn’t. Schmid also has experience with an expansion franchise during his time with the Sounders. He will know and understand the growing pains that come with one.
Whatever Atlanta United’s decision turns out to be, there are certainly positives and negatives that can be dissected throughout the careers of both coaches. It is important to remember that the coaching interviews are still ongoing, and these may not be the only two coaches we hear about in the next few weeks. Let the never-ending buildup to the inaugural season continue.