Commentary

Pochettino to Atlanta? Or has Bob Bradley proved the new coach doesn't have to be Latino?

A year and a half ago, when Atlanta announced, with much self-congratulation, that it had signed Frank De Boer  as the coach to replace Tata Martino, I called the appointment a “betrayal.”

I also found it impossible to swallow the words of Atlanta’s English president Darren Eales as he so ecstatically sang the praises of De Boer as “someone who fit all of our criteria. In addition to meeting our club’s core values, Frank’s philosophical views for how to play unequivocally aligns with ours.” I defined that as piffle.

Because, more than just suspecting a colossal blunder, I knew this wasn’t going to work. It has taken Atlanta far too long - 18 months of increasingly discordant performances - to admit its mistake. Eighteen months during which all that great soccer and wonderful excitement that was the trademark of Martino’s team perceptibly faded away as De Boer managed to reduce Atlanta United to just another rather ordinary MLS team. A betrayal indeed.

Yes, De Boer takes a lot of the blame, but certainly not all of it. In early 2014 Eales, then Director of Football Administration at London’s Tottenham Hotspur, figured in the hiring of the Argentine Mauricio Pochettino as Spurs’ new coach. The appointment had been narrowed down to just two candidates - Pochettino and ... Frank De Boer. Pochettino got the job, but Eales had been impressed by De Boer. Eales moved to Atlanta later that year, and in 2018 found himself in another coach quest. This time, with Eales’ backing, De Boer got the job.

An appointment that almost defies belief. Quite aside from his total unsuitability for coaching Latin players there was the unavoidably horrendous news that de Boer had been a resounding flop in his two most recent coaching jobs at Inter Milan, where he lasted but three months, and in England, where Crystal Palace could put up with him for only two and a half months.

Those deafening warning signals were blithely ignored by Eales at Atlanta. Enter De Boer. And now, exit de Boer. Eales, of course, remains, and he is actually in a position to go some way to repairing the damage that De Boer has inflicted.

Pochettino is out of work. Fired by Spurs after five largely successful years, and an impressive 54% winning record. So, how about it, Darren? Pochettino for Atlanta United? A long shot, for sure. Pochettino is reportedly a candidate to take over at Juventus, which would put him in the $12 million-a-year salary range. Maybe out of Atlanta’s reach, but surely worth a try.

Anyway, a try would be good news, because it would reveal that Eales and Atlanta were getting their thinking straight. A Latin American coach is required -- someone with the pulse of the Latin game in his blood, someone with the vital South American connections that Tata Martino could so quickly and effectively call into action when he was building Atlanta’s initial squad.

Someone who would -- please! -- allow Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco to sparkle, would get them playing with the brio that tells you they are enjoying themselves.

But ... this being soccer, where nothing is ever quite what it seems, I need to point out that the most attractive and exciting team in MLS at the moment is Los Angeles FC. Stocked with Latino talent, led by two standout players, Mexican Carlos Vela and Uruguayan Diego Rossi. And, in Bob Bradley, a coach who flat-out contradicts just about everything I’ve been saying about the necessity of a Latino coach.

I’ve followed Bradley’s coaching career pretty closely. I found his MLS teams -- including the Chicago Fire and the Red Bulls -- workmanlike and unimaginative. His version of the men’s national team rarely excited me. I crossed swords with him a number of times, particularly over what I saw as his shunning of Latin players.

Bradley did a brave thing, went out into the soccer world, sold himself as a coach in very foreign lands, in Scandinavia, in Egypt -- and how easy can that have been? Since when has a soccer coach from the USA been considered a valuable item? And he’s returned to the USA to give MLS a marvelous team that is Latin-based and bristling with skill and artistry.

My, how things have changed. Never would I have expected to see Bradley in charge of a Latin-style team. I got that wrong, didn’t I ever.

So it is just possible that Atlanta could find a non-Latino coach to re-invigorate their Latino style. But I wouldn’t want to bet on it. There cannot be many Bob Bradleys around. He’s proved himself a pretty remarkable sort of coach.

19 comments about "Pochettino to Atlanta? Or has Bob Bradley proved the new coach doesn't have to be Latino?".
  1. Bob Ashpole, July 27, 2020 at 12:19 a.m.

    This is 2020, not 1970. Good soccer is good soccer and knows no borders or cultures other than the culture of good soccer. 

    IMO the best soccer is not old school "Latin", but rather a blend of Dutch Style tactics and the Latinesque combination passing game. That was demonstrated generations ago by Cruyff (managing) at Barca and Sacchi at AC Milan. 

    The most striking aspect of the clubs playing the best soccer is that they are not typical of their countries. Sometimes those clubs themselves stray from the path. But when they do it right, it is beautiful to see. Ironically even with the great teams of past and present there is no shortage of debate over what is the best soccer. 

    Most people say that the US soccer culture is determined by the attributes of our players. I say instead US Soccer is limited by the views of our coaches.

  2. R2 Dad, July 27, 2020 at 2:18 a.m.

    The problem with BB is that he had to inflict 20 years of boring kickball on all those fans and leagues around the world before he could manage an LAFC further up the learning curve. 

  3. Sean Guillory, July 27, 2020 at 6:38 a.m.

    I have listened to Paul Gardner talk about the superiority and greatness of the Latino player for years and how without them the USA could never advance to be a great team.  Well I will say this, México has never come close to winning a World Cup and only Brazil as a national team has won a World Cup in the last 30 plus years that has this "Latino" style and even that is debatable.  On the club stage the best teams are in Europe with European Managers who play a pressing athletic style with technique and quick passing.  The best manager in the world right now is Klopp and Liverpool is stock full of players that are not "Latino".  To succeed in the world stage now you need a combination of skill, athleticism and tactical discipline.  If you have all that any coach will succeed.  You don't need a bunch of Latino players or coaches.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, July 27, 2020 at 9:48 a.m.

    Sean, France, Italy, and Spain are Latino countries, and the EPL contains more Latino players than English.

  5. Kam Siu replied, July 27, 2020 at 10:34 a.m.

    No Bob.  France, Italy and Spain are not the "Latino" countries PG was referring to.  You might have missed the part where he stated "A Latin American coach is required -- someone with the pulse of the Latin game in his blood, someone with the vital South American connections that Tata Martinez could so quickly and effectively call into action when he was building Atlanta’s initial squad."

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, July 27, 2020 at 11:51 a.m.

    Kam Siu, I was replying to Sean, not PG. Sean was talking about European clubs and managers.

  7. Kam Siu replied, July 27, 2020 at 1:13 p.m.

    Bob, that's what Sean was replying to.  

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, July 27, 2020 at 1:22 p.m.

    I agree that Sean, replied to PG who was talking about Latin American coaches, by discussing European clubs and managers. Your comment while accurate is not pertinent

  9. Oswald Viva replied, August 15, 2020 at 9:45 a.m.

    Sean, just to correct one of your stetements, Brazil is not the only latin country (or latin american to be more precise) to win a world cup. Argentina won it twice and twice was "subcampeon" (came in second) and in one of those it was robbed in the final minutres of the final, by a Mexican referee.

  10. frank schoon, July 27, 2020 at 10 a.m.

    Guys, first of all, Bob, R2, Sean,...I'm looking at the time of your postings, don't you guys ever sleep? LOLOLOL  I would recommend everyone to click on "betrayal" that was written a while ago. There was some great back and forths between the posters and well as the PG's column.

    Ships had strong feelings of misapprehensions like PG than, and I think we all did in a way, although I was for bringing in Frank for I was looking more at the 'bigger picture' which had to do with our US soccer development and the possible contributions of Frank de Boer to it. We all wanted and preferred TATA to stay with Atlanta, but that was not in the cards. If Atlanta had to hire a new coach,  I wanted someone who could coach and teach our players the higher levels of the game which you can't do if you had not played and experienced  that level high yourself;  and this is one of the main reasons according to Johan Cruyff that has contributed to the poor youth development and the lower quality of play of professional soccer. 

    There weren't many options at the time as far as hiring good coaches. But if I can sign Frank de Boer  as coach with his experience for 3 years, I would take him. PG raves about Pochettino...Yeah, 54% winning record after 5years in England...WOW, I'm real impressed...I"m not interested in his winning record, but in developing our US soccer. Yes, I'm for bringing in only good foreign coaches to the MLS, like Pochettino, Henry, Tata, De Boer,etc because they can all contribute to our game, for they experienced better soccer.

    But any team that hires Frank de Boer is looking change, building a team, making some structural changes to better quality of play for Frank has that backround and experience. Inter was doing lousy and were in dire straits, hired de Boer with the intention to changing they way of thinking and playing. Inter was looking back at how Sacci of AC Milan revolutionized Italian soccer by going to Ajax  to study Cruyff's methods.  When you begin to build, it takes time. Inter after a few losses decided we just wanted to win and got rid of de Boer and threw good soccer overboard for short term gain. Crystal Palace ,idem ditto. NEXT POST

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, July 27, 2020 at 1:25 p.m.

    Frank, I sleep but not on a fixed schedule. Retirement is bliss. :)

  12. R2 Dad replied, July 27, 2020 at 2:14 p.m.

    Frank, those are east coast time stamps I believe. I've become a light sleeper as well, so am often up at odd hours these days.

  13. frank schoon, July 27, 2020 at 10:48 a.m.

    PG wanted a Latin coach for Atlanta because of the Latin flavor of players. Tata was a failure with Barcelona, he didn't last long there. A latin coach, Tata and Barca, hmmm, lot of Latin there, WHAT HAPPENED?  Yes, I agree de Boer is not a Latino and he doesn't have a Latin heart, feelings, SO WHAT.  Look at all the Latin players at Ajax, they don't seem to have a problem, living, playing in a non-latin environment, non-latin coach. Remember, the Brazilians Romario, Ronaldo, Neres, how 'bout Saurez who played for Ajax and now plays for Barcelona, there are more playing in Holland and of Europe.

    Atlanta hired de Boer to change the culture of play, to improve it. I want to know what was told to Frank de Boer , by CARLOS BOCANEGRA what were the plans....????? SA how 'bout an interview with BOCANEGRA...I want to know and get him away from out of under his desk.....

    PG is now a BB fan after he stated " I would never expected in charge of a Latin team". I can guarantee you,  BB does not have a Latin heart, like De Boer. So we have 
    2 non-latin coaches , one is finally doing well and this year de Boer is not.  So what does all this prove, NOTHING. That leads to looking into the circumstances of the two coaches to get a better picture for the disparity between the two teams

    Of all the latin players of Atlanta, only Joseph Martinez is worth keeping. Piti Martinez, chosen the South American player of the year, REALLY....I think PELE was once chose South American player of the year...what a difference. If Piti was really that good he wouldn't be playing for Atlanta but Atalanta or somewhere in Spain. And Boca when you look at him ,he looks scared , he lacks the aura or presence of being a great player. Atlanta lost some players but although they did well last year, I didn't like the mix. But regardless of the mix, it was Joseph Martinez that puts the ball in the back of the net...and without him Atlanta is useless and that's not because of De Boer....

  14. frank schoon replied, July 27, 2020 at 4:05 p.m.

    Gordon, "not only trade away' that is easy but never got anything back to fill the gaps....

  15. Gordon Holt, July 27, 2020 at 12:43 p.m.

    Yes, Frank, exactly!  Put the squeeze on Bocanegra, PG.  He's the trade-em-away guy likely most responsible for Atlanta's swoon. 

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, July 27, 2020 at 1:36 p.m.

    Not to mention, these matches were pre-season matches in a pandemic. 

    I would think the club would have more realistic expectations.

    But as implied, this had to be a rebuilding year given the turnover. Instead of allowing De Boer to do the rebuilding, they have an interim coach now. Too bad. I had high hopes that Atlanta was going to break the mold of MLS parity, i.e., mediocracy.  

  17. R2 Dad replied, July 27, 2020 at 3:06 p.m.

    I kind of feel for CB, who doesn't really have the management experience to add enough value and context to this ill-fated flurry of transfers. This kind of wholesale change is difficult to manage (as Man U,  Arsenal & Barcelona can attest) even for experienced hands. Ajax, renowned for their player development, went through a prolonged dry spell before their recent European revival in 2017. (I'd like to believe Van der Sar had something to do with this but that might just be wishful thinking--he has always come across as competent and thoughtful).

  18. frank schoon replied, July 27, 2020 at 3:27 p.m.

    R2, it wasn't Van der Sar, for he was an apprentice in learning how to run Ajax  ,he had nothing to do with player development and that's to be expected since he had a goalie backround. The change came about when Cruyff got fed up in the manner how Ajax lost to Real Madrid . He was fed up with how Ajax was being run, and told Ajax changes needed to be made starting from the youth development.  He warned 15years about how lousy Ajax youth development but nobody listened. Also he demanded to see Ajax play, Ajax soccer back to the sophisticated style of 433, and leave the 442 garbage.

    He brought in former players like Bergkamp, de Boers, and many other former Ajax greats to get back to basics. He got players to be involved in the runnings of Ajax. He wanted to follow the model of Bayern Munchen that is run by 3 former players, Beckenbauer, Rumminegge, Hoeness etc...which has led to Bayern's continued success, led by former player who played at the highest level....
     
    He wanted Ajax youth development to stress INVIDIDUALITY again, learning what kids learned when playing pickup soccer and all those aspects......

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, July 27, 2020 at 6:13 p.m.

    R2, Cruyff's last book, "My Turn", talks about it.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications