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Eric Wynalda Named Interim Coach of the Atlanta Silverbacks

2012 July 2

Eric Wynalda shakes hands with Sigi Schmid before their US Open Cup match that saw his Cal FC take on the Seattle Sounders on FOX Soccer.

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.


18 Responses
  1. July 2, 2012

    If he’s so serious about coaching, why won’t he take the job full time? Why leave after 6 weeks or so? I mean I guess he’s just in there to right the ship, maybe get his Cal FC guys some contracts, but if he won’t leave his Fox Soccer gig, it might be a slap in the face to the rest of the hard working coaches in the NASL.

  2. Andy permalink
    July 2, 2012

    Did I miss something? What happened to Alex Pineda-Chacon?

  3. Andy permalink
    July 2, 2012

    Found the article, nevermind.

  4. July 2, 2012

    “If he’s so serious about coaching, why won’t he take the job full time?”

    How much, do you figure, an NASL coach makes? How much security, do you think, you have in an NASL contract (with a team that has now had three coaches in a short period of time) versus a three-year contract from FOX?

    I’m sure he doesn’t feel he needs to get approval from an anonymous guy on the internet before making choices.

    “If he won’t leave his Fox Soccer gig, it might be a slap in the face to the rest of the hard working coaches in the NASL.”

    Awwwwwwww. I think Colin Clarke and company will get over it. An interim gig means just that. And usually interim gigs are bad situations.

  5. bullsear permalink
    July 2, 2012

    I thought the person who posted that comment on the other article was joking …

  6. Soccer Boy permalink
    July 2, 2012

    I think that this is only a start. Most of the Silverback players need to grow up and show some professionalism on the pitch.

  7. GumbyGrrl permalink
    July 2, 2012

    “If he’s so serious about coaching, why won’t he take the job full time?”

    From above: “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.”

  8. Kelble permalink
    July 2, 2012

    I wonder if he will complain about the NASL not having pro/rel, a fall-spring schedule, playoffs, like he does with MLS? Or will he shut his mouth?

    I also remember him in his famous rant about how no one wants to play in Florida is July. Well good luck in Atlanta in July, Eric. Haha!

    Oh well, it is only for a couple of months. Wynalda can hire anyone he wants. If Traffic is tired of funding this terrible team, it doesn’t matter.

  9. July 2, 2012

    @Kelble, Did you actually read the article and the quotes from Eric and the Pitch Invasion podcast?

  10. Kelble permalink
    July 2, 2012

    Yes I did. Otherwise I wouldn’t have read the funny quote about not wanting to play in Ft Lauderdale in July.

    Basically everything he dislikes about MLS is in the NASL.

  11. smatthew permalink
    July 2, 2012

    I like the move by ATL and that Wynalda took the spot. I honestly didn’t think Eric would take on a lower division coaching gig that was outside of California.

  12. Strikers Return permalink
    July 2, 2012

    @Kenn – You made your point about why Wynalda probably isn’t interested in this position full time. But again with the stupid “anonymous internet” guy comments? Good grief man, get over it already. Here, Big Soccer, elsewhere on the web – there are soccer fans who like to talk about soccer. They don’t have to put their personal info up on their post for your approval. What, are you doing credit checks on everyone or something? Making sure you’ve got the name and address of anyone that disagrees with you? As long as they’re not claiming to be somebody they’re not, then who even cares?

    @BQ – Something tells me there’s still plenty more to come in Atlanta. Boris seems to be cleaning house. Sure their record has something to do with it, but could there be something else going on as well?

  13. Bart permalink
    July 2, 2012

    @ Strikers Return

    “…something else going on as well?”

    A short term contract to get them through the end of the season…….

    Maybe the writing is on the wall…..

    (ps – I need your SS number for a credit check, just post it here, I promise no one else will know about it)

  14. July 2, 2012

    @Strikers Return, we talked about this on the last podcast. Boris cleaning house or Traffic cleaning house on Boris?

  15. RutgerATL permalink
    July 2, 2012

    I hope Traffic is cleaning house on Boris. I really think a new owner is what the team needs.

  16. WSW permalink
    July 2, 2012

    NASL does things differently than MLS we have single table and a home/away NASL Cup Final.

  17. Mikey permalink
    July 2, 2012

    Great hire. Eric did try to get head coaching positions in MLS already. I believe he tried out for Chicago and I am positive that he put together a strong staff for a Chivas USA gig.

  18. Strikers Return permalink
    July 3, 2012

    You heard it here first – Silverbacks win in Cary tonight, 2 – 1. Railhawks back line gives up a lot of chances, and I think the ‘Backs players have something to prove to the new boss.

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