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.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.