Atlanta Silverbacks

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.

Silverbacks player’s face stomp ignites four red cards; overshadows upset of Colorado (video)

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source:  At least bites can only transmit disease.

The Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL should be celebrating a 2-1 upset of the Colorado Rapids, as head coach Eric Wynalda continues his winning ways in the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

Instead, they are lamenting a regrettable and heinous incident that saw a four players given red cards and both head coaches sent to the stands.

Silverbacks forward Jaime Chavez, 26, stomped on the face of prone Rapids defender Drew Moor after a battle for the ball sent Moor to the turf, opening an “inch-wide cut” on the Rapids captain. The fight that followed featured Rapids defender Marc Burch taking a swing at Chavez, and left Atlanta down to 8-men for the rest of the match.

Burch was dismissed by referee Juan Guzman, but the Silverbacks saw three players sent off: Chavez as well as Kwadwo Poku and Borfor Carr. Wynalda and his Colorado counterpart, Pablo Mastroeni, were also sent off for leaving their technical areas.

Remarkably, Atlanta only conceded once the rest of the way. Perhaps of bigger note, the incident was the first card shown of either color in the match. Three yellows were shown the rest of the way.

Head here for the video and skip to the 50-minute mark for the lead-up to the stomp and ensuing madness.

Chavez probably shouldn’t play again this season, if not longer. As for anything that ensued, it’s terrible for the game but almost understandable. If I was Burch, I would’ve responded the same way if not worse. Awful.

Eric Wynalda expands role with Atlanta, set to be Silverbacks’ Mr. Everything in 2014

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At the risk of navel-having, posts like these are exactly why the Atlanta Silverbacks should be trilled to have Eric Wynalda. Without their technical director, this site — one that rarely dives into lower-division United States soccer — wouldn’t care about the Silverbacks’ transition from Brian Haynes, the man whose contract wasn’t renewed at the end of the last North American Soccer League season. Instead, because Wynalda is expanding his technical director role with the league’s spring  champions, the Silverbacks are a point of conversation, transcending the relative national anonymity that persistent with most NASL clubs.

As of today, part of the conversation surrounding Wynalda will center on the new experiment Atlanta’s undertaking. Instead of replacing Haynes, the man Wynalda identified to take the reins after his seven-game interim spell two years ago, the Silverbacks are eliminating the head coach’s role entirely, giving Wynalda control of everything from the technical director’s office to the training ground and sidelines.

According to a statement distributed by the team on Tuesday:

Wynalda will handle all team-related decisions, and manage the team during NASL play. While he will still remain in his role as a soccer analyst at Fox Sports 1, the former U.S. Men’s National Team star will manage all of the team’s games and key practices. Wynalda will rely on a group of hand-selected assistants to take the team through early-week recovery and training sessions.

In short, Wynalda has a contract with Fox. Whenever he’s not fulfilling that deal in California, he’ll be with Atlanta. If that means he has time to be at practice, he will. Same for games, but even when he’s not around, he’ll be calling the shots.

This could end up being an experiment in virtual managing, with video cameras set up at practice and games allowing Wynalda to give instructions via Skype. Maybe we can get a Tupac-esque hologram Wynalda projected onto the sidelines at Silverbacks Park, though if Atlanta had that technology, Virtual Eric would have been patrolling the sidelines long ago.

But this move could also ended with Wynalda racking up tens of thousands of dollars in airfare while burning himself out by the end of the 2014 season. While it appears to be the next step in a U.S. legend’s transition from punditry to practice, it may also be a man eat to prove his talents spreading himself too thin.

Regardless, Silverbacks management is ready to take the plunge.

“The organization has tremendous belief in Eric Wynalda’s system of play. Heading into the offseason, we asked ourselves how we could get back to following that system,” Silverbacks chairman Boris Jerkunica said in a statement distributed by the club. “We’ve come to the conclusion of reengineering Eric’s role, and that will include managing the team’s training sessions and games. We believe in Eric’s vision and we consider him to be part of our long-term plans.”

Suffice to say, this isn’t something that would happen in Major League Soccer, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great arrangement for all involved. Wynalda, who has long coveted a job in MLS, gets to flash his coaching potential to whatever extent his Fox contract allows. At the same time, Atlanta gets the talents of somebody whose seen early success with Cal FC and the Silverbacks, has a profile that will draw attention to the second-tier club, and will be on television regularly to implicitly expand the team’s profile.

In the process, Wynalda and the team can spin this as an innovation, even if it’s really just a logical extension of their mutually beneficial relationship.

“We understand as an organization that this appears to be a less conventional approach to running a club, however, we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t expect it to be successful,” Wynalda said. “Our ethics, our principles, our tactics, and our philosophy will not change, and we believe this process is very feasible and has tremendous potential.”

It has the potential to keep the Silverbacks in the news, a place Wynalda frequently finds himself. With today’s appointment, he’s again back in the discussion. How often he keeps Atlanta in our minds will be as important as 2014’s results.

Eric Wynalda gets a taste of his own medicine

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Say what you want about Eric Wynalda (everybody does), but the guy has a sense of humor, a quality the Atlanta Silverbacks are using to bring some attention to their second division club. The FOX Soccer commentator is spending his summer coaching the NASL club, guiding the club to three wins in his six matches in charge (Atlanta had one win in 14 before his appointment).

Today, Wynalda sat down for an exclusive to talk about his time in Atlanta, addressing his latest foray into coaching, success with Cal FC, his thoughts on bringing some of those players to the Silverbacks, the Olympics …

All of which would be pretty ho-hum if Wynalda weren’t interviewing himself, a joke that plays out as interesting commentary on announcing versus coaching. As he says, there are certain things he has to say while working for FOX while acting as a head coach carries entirely different expectations.

You see a little of that here, but mostly, you see Wynalda trying to have a little fun with his … personas.