The Atlanta Silverbacks completed an improbable run to win the NASL Spring season title with a three to nothing victory over Minnesota United on Thursday night.
The victory came a year and one day after Eric Wynalda made his coaching debut for Atlanta against Carolina. At the time the Silverbacks sat at the bottom of the NASL table and had earned fewer points in a season and a half of NASL play than any other side had in a single season.
This begs the question about Wynalda. Despite all of the criticisms and “yes men” in US Soccer and MLS, has the time come for someone to break ranks and bring the USMNT legend who earned 107 caps into a more prominent role in the domestic game?
Critics of Eric Wynalda are numerous throughout the American soccer hierarchy. Following a controversial speech at the 2012 NSCAA Convention, Wynalda led CAL FC, an amateur team with less than a month together, to the fourth round of the US Open Cup, shocking the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field in Round 3.
Wynalda, who was seeking a role in the game beyond his commentary duties at FOX Soccer, joined the Silverback as Interim Head Coach and Team Advisor in late June 2012.
The culture of the Silverbacks immediately changed and while Wynalda returned to FOX Soccer in mid-August 2012 for the beginning of the Premier League season, his handpicked Head Coach Brian Haynes took Atlanta out of the basement and finished the 2012 NASL Regular Season as the in-form team. Atlanta missed the playoffs but gave a statement of intent for 2013, by compiling the best record in the NASL after August 15.
Attendance for the club had risen from an average of 2,800 fans per game in 2011 to over 4,500 in 2012 under the new leadership. The near capacity crowds in 2012 saw the start of something unique and extraordinary, a remarkable turnaround of a franchise that had appeared to be dying on the vine in 2011.
Last night the Silverbacks clinched the NASL Spring Season title and will host the Soccer Bowl in November against the fall champion. With this accomplishment checked off, isn’t it about time the culture of conformity in US Soccer ended and someone at a high level seriously considered hiring Eric Wynalda?
The answer is obvious to most of us, but too many of the powers that be don’t seem to agree with logic.