Eric Wynalda Named Interim Coach of the Atlanta Silverbacks
Eric Wynalda has been named the new head coach of the Atlanta Silverbacks on a interim basis. He is replacing former manager Alex Pineda Chacón who was released on Sunday. Wynalda becomes the third head coach in less than a year for the organization.
Sources in Atlanta said Silverbacks owner Boris Jerkunica had recently been inquiring about Wynalda. The former US National Team player will have his hands full as he takes over his first training session with the team this morning. The Silverbacks currently sit bottom of the NASL with a 1-8-5 record and only 8 points after 14 games. The Silverbacks have a -16 goal differential, giving up 30 goals in 14 games and have lost their last four matches by an aggregate deficit of ten goals to one.
According to the team’s press release, Wynalda will handle all team-related decisions effective immediately, and that will include finding a permanent head coach for the club. Wynalda has just signed a three-year deal with FOX Soccer and will leave in the fall to resume his duties with the soccer network.
“We’re extremely excited to have Eric join our organization as an interim head coach and team advisor,” said Silverbacks Chairman Boris Jerkunica. “Hiring Eric is another big step in our continued quest to add more experience and professionalism to our franchise.”
Wynalda, a 43-year-old native of California, started his career playing for San Diego State before moving abroad and being one of the first US player to work in Europe. In Germany, he played for FC Saarbrucken where he made 61 appearances with 21 goals, and at VfL Bochum he played in 29 matches and scored 4 goals. He came back to play in the US with the launch of MLS and spent time with the San Jose Clash, Miami Fusion, New England Revolution and Chicago Fire, scoring 37 goals.
The forward was especially prolific in his time with the US National Team as they were emerging for the first time as a consistent competitor in CONCACAF. Wynalda made 107 appearances with the National Team scoring 34 goals and is still considered one of the best strikers the US has ever produced.
Wynalda has also been known to be critical of both US Soccer and MLS, particularly the later. At last winter’s NSCAA Convention in Kansas City, Wynalda presented a session called “Why Not US?” in which he blasted MLS and at one point got into a debate with MLS Director of Communications Will Kuhns, who took in the session.
Twitter is another spot that Wynalda can often be seen spouting his opinions and never shying away from confrontation.
Yet the U.S. saw a different side of Eric Wynalda when he took his USASA club Cal FC through the amateur ranks of the US Open Cup qualifications and pushed all the way to the 4th round of the competition before bowing out to the Seattle Sounders 5-0. It was a calmer more reserved Wynalda that coached his team to victories over Kitsap Pumas of USL PDL 3-1, Wilmington Hammerheads of USL PRO 4-0 and Portland Timbers of MLS 1-0, all while playing on the road.
US soccer fans watched the former US National Team player on the sidelines as coach of Cal FC. When FOX Soccer decided to televise the match against Seattle and Wynalda agreed to be hooked up to a microphone for the match, soccer fans in the US might have been surprised to see a slightly different side of the fiery commentator they were used to seeing on air. Wynalda dressed in a suit and coolly encouraged his players with minimal correction and commands from the technical area. The national exposure couldn’t have hurt his chances of being seen and picking up his new coaching gig with the Silverbacks.
He told his former Chicago Fire GM Peter Wilt in a Pitch Invasion podcast in May that because he’s paid by FOX Soccer to “have an opinion about everything, it can scare people.”
“That makes people think you’re incapable of having a filter or to be politically correct,” said Wynalda. “It’s not my job right now to be politically correct. As a manager (of Cal FC) it is, and that simplifies my life. If it’s my job to take care of a team, I don’t care about anything else. I’m not going to have an opinion about 80% of the things that people ask me about. It’s not my job to have an opinion anymore.”
Wynalda has also been linked to Clent Alexander and FOX Soccer partner Warren Barton’s San Diego Flash team which currently competes in the NPSL but have expressed interest in becoming an NASL team.