Eric Wynalda to be Named Atlanta Silverbacks Interim Head Coach For Second Time

Former Atlanta Silverbacks head coach Brian Haynes won the NASL Spring Championship and the league’s Coach of the Year Award. His reward was being sacking by Silverbacks management.

Tomorrow, the club will name the club’s Technical Director Eric Wynalda as the Interim Head Coach for the second time, World Soccer Talk has learned. The FOX Soccer analyst will continue in his role with the network during his stint as manager. Wynalda and Haynes, as a partnership, did a remarkable job identifying and attracting talent that took the club from the bottom of the NASL table in July 2012 to Spring Champions in 2013, a short 12 months later. While Wynalda deserves much of the credit for finding the talent and changing the culture of the organization, Haynes must be given credit for managing the club to a championship. The partnership worked and it is unfortunate for the Silverbacks supporters that Haynes was relieved of his duties.

The Silverbacks were recently sold to local ownership by Traffic Sports led by former owner Boris Jerkunica. The sale coincided with the sacking of Haynes, which may have been related to factors unrelated to on-the-pitch performances.

In Wynalda’s first stint as Silverbacks caretaker coach, he identified talent in the Silverbacks system including Chris Klute, a left back then playing with the reserve team that competes in the NPSL, the fourth-tier league of American soccer. Wynalda quickly integrated Klute into the first-team in July 2012 and by the end of the season he was loaned to the Colorado Rapids. Last week, Klute received his first call-up to the US Men’s National Team.

Wynalda also brought several players from the amateur side he had managed, Cal FC, to the Silverbacks. Many of those players went on to become top performers at the NASL level.

In my personal conversations with Wynalda when I worked with the NASL, I found he had a burning personal commitment to identify talent but not force them into the type of systems most American coaches implement.

He shared more details about his philosophy last October:

“The age group between 16 and 20, we spent a lot of time trying to — almost in a forced way — to turn these soccer players into something we want to be. In that process, we don’t let them find themselves,” Wynalda told The Big Lead.

The success Wynalda had in finding diamonds in the rough rankled some in the US Soccer hierarchy. But with attitudes beginning to change among the elites that run the game in this country, Wynalda’s views may seem less offensive than in the past.

Given the success Wynalda’s talent had while coached by Haynes, the bar is set high for his second stint as manager. But Wynalda has proven he can find talent and understands how to allow players to express themselves in a way that enhances their soccer-playing abilities.

The Silverbacks will provide Wynalda with another chance to showcase his ability to identify and nurture the types of talents that have fallen through the cracks of the largely broken US development system. Given the runaway success he had the first time around, it would be unwise to bet against him or the Silverbacks this time.

Editor’s note: Read the latest NASL news, analysis and opinion on the NASL page.

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  1. Javier January 6, 2014
    • Tayo January 6, 2014

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