Atlanta United’s future on the field is uncertain with Tata Martino leaving after this season. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA – Regardless how the team fares in the Major League Soccer playoffs, Tata Martino will not return as head coach of Atlanta United.
The club announced Tuesday that Argentine coach has declined to extend his contract with the club and will move on at the end of this season. The club will immediately begin a detailed global search for a replacement.
How this news will affect Atlanta, which has been the jewel of the league on and off the field since joining it in 2017, in the postseason and beyond, remaining to be seen.
This is known: Martino will be a hard act to follow.
After amicable negotiations between the team and Martino regarding the option to extend his contract, the head coach ultimately made the decision to move on after the 2018 season for personal reasons. No comment will be made by Martino regarding his future until after the conclusion of the season.
Atlanta (21-6-6, 69 points) leads the Supporters Shield standings and needs a victory in its regular-season finale against defending MLS Cup champions Toronto FC (9-18-6, 33), which is in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, Sunday to secure that spot. The Red Bulls (21-7-5, 68) trail Atlanta by a point.
“This was not an easy decision to make, I have enjoyed my time with Atlanta United very much and am proud of what we have accomplished together in such a short time,” Martino said. “The decision was not made for financial reasons, negotiations with the front office were transparent and fair. It was simply the right move for me and my family at this time. The opportunity to build a team from the start does not come along often, and I am grateful to the club and to the fans for putting their trust in me to establish a solid foundation here in Atlanta. What is most important now is that the focus remain on our goals for this season.”
Martino was announced as the club’s inaugural head coach on Sept. 27, 2016. In two years, he compiled a record of 38-17-17 in all competitions and guided the club to back-to-back MLS Cup Playoff appearances, which included becoming just the fourth expansion team in league history to qualify for the postseason. Over the last two seasons, no team in MLS has claimed more points (124), scored more goals (139) or posted a higher goal differential (+59) than Atlanta. The club also qualified for the 2019 Concacaf Champions League by securing the best record in MLS over the last two seasons.
“We are very grateful to Tata for his commitment to Atlanta United and for all he has done to help build our club during our first two years in the league,” United president Darren Eales said. “True to his reputation, he has been an incredible leader and has set us up for great success moving forward. From the beginning, his vision for Atlanta United was aligned with ours, and his level of experience, talent and leadership has been extremely valuable during this critical time. He will be missed, but we understand and appreciate his reasons for moving on to spend time with family and take on new challenges.”