It appears as if our favorite U.S. Soccer dissident has one fewer job. Eric Wynalda, one of the United States’ greatest players who has drawn more attention as Jurgen Klinsmann’s rhetorical counterpoint, will no longer coach the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks. The team’s technical director, whose role included head coaching responsibilities, will relinquish the latter role after this weekend’s visit from FC Edmonton.
According to the Silverbacks’ statement, plans to have Wynalda serve in the dual capacity have changed amid new demands with FOX Sports, his primary employer. Serving as Gus Johnson’s color man on FOX’s primary soccer broadcast team meant Wynalda, who lives in Los Angeles, is now managing more than a cross-country commute.
“When we sat down at the beginning of the season, we came up with a plan and a schedule that would have worked, but my role with FOX changed dramatically and that was an unforeseen change,” Wynalda explained in the Silverbacks’ statement, having officially assumed the dual role in January. “During Champions League and FA Cup, it went from commuting from LA to commuting from Europe, and it made things very difficult. We were trying to do the best we could under the circumstances, but with the high probability of future schedule changes, I decided that it was unfair to put the club through any further instability.”
Though he will continue as the club’s technical director, Wynalda’s coaching duties will now go to Jason Smith, who served in the same role for Atlanta from 2005 to 2008.
Under Wynalda, the Silverbacks finished eighth in the 10-team NASL during the league’s spring season, a performance that coincided with the team’s run to the U.S. Open Cup’s quarterfinals. There, having defeated MLS sides Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids in previous rounds, the Silverbacks were eliminated by the Chicago Fire.
Atlanta opened its fall season last weekend with a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
“Eric has sacrificed a great deal this season when it comes to taking on the responsibility of coaching the team,” Andy Smith, the club’s president and general manager, explained. “The amount of time and effort he has invested in our club is remarkable, and we support his decision to spend more time with his family and continue on as just the technical director as we bring in Jason Smith to coach the team.”
When Wynalda originally joined the Silverbacks last July, the team experienced a minor surge after struggling at the beginning of the 2013 Fall season. This January, the team announced they were doing away with its official head coach’s role, allowing the club’s technical director to also manage the team on the field.
His appoint led to a series of doubt as to how he’d manage the team from Los Angeles, with some jokingly speculating how much Skype video would be involved in running practices. After the humor faded, Wynalda posted some positive results. While the Silverbacks remained near the bottom of the league’s standings, the U.S. Open Cup run generated positive publicity for the club, particularly in light of Wynalda’s previous Open Cup exploits with amateur club Cal FC.
All the while, Wynalda has had to maintain a presence in Los Angeles, where his family and primary job occupied a separate world. With today’s announcement, the primacy of that world came back into focus, with the Wynalda’s days of transcontinental coaching coming to a close.