Eric Wynalda

Eric Wynalda to step away from coach’s role with NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks

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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.

UCL wrap: Vardy gives Leicester lifeline; Juve wins

Leicester's Jamie Vardy, left, celebrates after he scores a goal during the Champions League round of 16 soccer match between Sevilla and Leicester City at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
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Jamie Vardy‘s late goal helped dominated Leicester City make amends for a rough hour in Sevilla, as the Foxes took an away goal from Spain in one of two UEFA Champions League Round of 16 legs on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Round of 16 ]

Elsewhere, Porto nearly handled an early red card all the way to 0-0. Alas, Juventus.


Sevilla 2-1 Leicester City

Jamie Vardy’s late goal gives Leicester City hope after Joaquin Correa and Pablo Sarabia helped the hosts to a two-goal lead on Wednesday at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.

Wes Morgan gave away a penalty with an out-of-position challenge, but Correa’s take was poor and Kasper Schmeichel guessed correctly to snare the low shot.

Schmeichel then robbed Sergio Escudero, only to be burnt by Sevilla’s No. 17. Escudero swept a cross over the Leicester back line and a leaping Christian Fuchs, and Sarabia headed home for a deserved 1-0.

Fuchs’ dicey day continued in the 56th minute, as Sarabia had plenty of time for a strong attempt only to miss near post.

Substitute Demarai Gray injected some life into Leicester, and Danny Drinkwater forced Sevilla into conceding a corner in the 60th minute. The Foxes played it short to no success.

Moments later, Sevilla were up a pair through Correa. Ex-Man City striker Stevan Jovetic, on loan from Inter Milan, teed up Correa for the shot.

Vardy pulled back what could be a huge away goal for the Foxes, belting a Drinkwater square ball home in the 74th minute.


Porto 0-2 Juventus

Alex Telles’ 27th minute yellow card was his second for Porto in 74 seconds, giving the impression that Juventus would waltz back to Italy with the tie well in-hand.

Instead, Iker Casillas and Porto closed up shop to great success, and Juventus didn’t break through until the final 20 minutes. Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves netted two minutes apart to give Juve a solid foothold in the quarterfinals.

VIDEO: Manchester United dispatches Saint-Etienne, Mkhi injured

SAINT-ETIENNE, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 22:  Florentin Pogba of Saint-Etienne walks on the pitch next to his brother Paul Pogba of Manchester United during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg match between AS Saint-Etienne and Manchester United at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on February 22, 2017 in Saint-Etienne, France.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
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Juan Mata‘s 16th minute service found Henrikh Mkhitaryan score the only goal of Manchester United’s 1-0 second leg Europa League Round of 32 win at Saint-Etienne, but the win came at a price.

Mkhitaryan left the match with a leg injury, casting him in doubt for Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley Stadium. Michael Carrick also left the game with an injury.

[ MORE: Two year bans for penalty protest ]

Krasnodar and Schalke also clinched berths in the Round of 16, which will be played March 9 and 16.

UCL AT HALF: Leicester trails in Spain, Porto down a man (video)

Sevilla players celebrate the goal of Sevilla's Pablo Sarabia, second left, during the Champions League round of 16 soccer match between Sevilla and Leicester City at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
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Leicester City will be happy to get to halftime down by a mere goal, while Porto will be simply hoping to be alive after 90 minutes at home to Juventus.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

That’s because Porto will play more than an hour down a man against The Old Lady.

Sevilla 1-0 Leicester City

Wes Morgan gave away a penalty with an out-of-position challenge, but Joaquin Correa’s take was poor and Kasper Schmeichel guessed correctly to snare the low shot.

Schmeichel then robbed Sergio Escudero, only to be burnt by Sevilla’s No. 17. Escudero swept a cross over the Leicester back line and a leaping Christian Fuchs, and Pablo Sarabia headed home for a deserved 1-0.

Porto 0-0 Juventus

It didn’t take long for Juventus fans to feel rightly confident, as Porto’s Alex Telles took a pair of yellow cards in 74 seconds.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Leicester face Sevilla; Juve head to Porto

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City applauds the crowd in defeat after the Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester United at The King Power Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs take place on Wednesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Leicester City of the Premier League head to Spain to face Sevilla in the UCL last 16 despite Claudio Ranieri‘s men battling for survival in the Premier League. The Foxes, as always, are the big underdogs in Spain as Sevilla have won the UEFA Europa League in each of the past three seasons and Jorge Sampaoli’s side are battling for the title in La Liga.

As for Leicester, they’re just two points off the bottom of the PL as they haven’t scored in their last six outings and have lost five on the spin as well as being dumped out of the FA Cup by third-tier Millwall at the weekend. So yeah, Sevilla head into this game as the heavy favorites and will hope to take a healthy lead to the King Power Stadium with them in two weeks time.

In the other UCL clash on Wednesday FC Porto host Juventus as the Portuguese and Italian giants collide at the Estadio do Dragao. Porto finished behind Leicester in the group stage, while Juv battled it out with Sevilla and clinched top spot. Massimiliano Allegri’s men remain top of Serie A and will look to Gonzalo Higuain to deliver the goals away from home. It promises to be an intriguing tactical battle in northern Portugal.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Wednesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Sevilla vs. Leicester City – 2:45 p.m. ET
FC Porto vs. Juventus – 2:45 p.m. ET