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Atlanta United Coaching Options


While it is fun to daydream about the Jurgen Klopps and Thomas Tuchels of the world, it is also important to be realistic when thinking about who Atlanta United could get. If you look at the club objectively, there are some distinct pros and cons to the job. The team will always have a very solid fan base and put more fans in the stadium for a bad Wednesday game they lose than most MLS or even smaller European teams can get on a Saturday when they are winning. The team is unmistakably in a downturn right now, though. And it's not the roster. Garth has put a winning team on the field and it is winning. The fan base also has some trust issues with coaches, while better than the pressure cookers in Europe, after a year of bad results some of the fans will be calling for a change in management. That isn't everyone by any means but that is definitely a contingent of 17s. You are also a team in America (yay!) but in Atlanta (oh.). An LAFC or Miami has a serious draw for foreign players and coaches that Atlanta just doesn't.

All that being said, the job is going to get filled by someone and it probably isn't going to be Rob Valentino or Thomas Tuchel. So here are three realistic options for the coaching vacancy.

Freddy Juarez

Unfortunately, this list will likely elicit some "Who?" reactions and Freddy Juarez is one of those guys. He has an interesting argument for the job, though. He is currently an assistant at Seattle and as the previous home of Garth Lagerwey, he will likely at least be on the radar.

Freddy's playing career isn't mind-boggling, he spent 10 years in the USL before retiring in 2007. He was also on the 2007 US National Futsal team, though, which is at least kind of fun.

His coaching career is far more interesting, though. He was the academy coach at USL and won the U-16 championship in 2012 with several current MLS players (including Brooks Lennon). He then took over the Real Monarchs SC in the USL for two years before becoming an assistant at RSL in 2016. Three years later, he took over as Interim Coach with a decent 7-5-2 record to close out the 2019 season. This made 3rd in the west and he went on to beat the Timbers before falling to eventual champions Seattle. The next (COVID) season he went 5-10-7 and 11th in the West. He finished his time at RSL going 7-7-6 in 2021.

He then moved to Seattle in September 2021 and has been an assistant coach ever since.

Pros:
  1. Head Coaching Experience

  2. Lots of Time in the MLS

  3. Comes from Seattle so he is kind of known

  4. Speaks Spanish

Cons:
  1. Mediocre Head Coaching Record

  2. No Real Experience Outside of MLS

  3. Not a great player

Adrian Heath

This one makes me sad to list as I don't like considering Atlanta taking a coach Minnesota ended up parting ways with, but it does kind of make sense for what Atlanta is likely looking for. Heath has ample MLS experience, has coached in Europe, and was a successful player which people always prefer.

You might know Heath from the ever-successful Minnesota United. Until October 2023, Heath was Minnesota's only ever manager. He led them to 9th, 10th, 4th, a COVID 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 11th in the West. The Loons were never a dominant team but had been improving until Heath's eventual exit in 2023. It's not a jaw-dropping record but he clearly has experience.

Prior to Minnesota, Heath had an 18-year playing career in England (and briefly Spain) which features stints at the likes of Everton, Man City, and Burnley. As Rooney has proved, being a great player doesn't make you a great manager but it certainly helps. Every one of the top managers in Europe has had at least a semi-successful playing career.

After hanging up the boots, Heath coached sporadically in England. He was at Burnley in 1996-97 before single years at Sheffield and Coventry (twice). After that, he headed to North America. He coached the Austin Aztecs in the USL for 3 years before moving to Orlando to coach them in the USL from 2011-14 and the MLS from 2015-16. That then brings us back to the bulk of his coaching career at Minnesota.

Pros:
  1. Lots of Head Coaching Experience

  2. Lots of Time in the MLS

  3. Illustrious Playing Career

  4. Known Quantity as an MLS Coach most recently

Cons:
  1. Mediocre Coaching Record

  2. Old and Very White

Bruce Arena

So. The club and fans would definitely need to figure out how to move past whatever his investigation was over. That is a big ask for the club and fans as it was serious enough to get him fired and there are some serious rumors but, as far as I know, nothing is official.

All that being said, Bruce Arena has every credential you would look for in a coach. He is the winningest coach in MLS history. He has won five MLS championships, 3 gold cups with the U.S., and an Open Cup. He has a successful history in the MLS and knows the competition about as much as anyone could.

On paper there is a lot going for him. He has coached DC, the U.S. twice, the Red Bulls, the Galaxy, and the Revolution most recently. He has also expressed interest in a return to coaching in a recent interview with the Athletic. The misconduct thing will just have to be cleared up in the eyes of the club first. And perhaps this will be similar to Almada. The club trusted he did nothing wrong in Argentina and they were right. As fans, we don't always have all the information. Bruce Arena has said the locker room was with him. It will still take some convincing, though. Needing to petition to be able to coach again isn't something you have to do for a minor issue.

Pros:
  1. Winningest Coach In MLS History

  2. Obviously lots of Experience

  3. Knows How To win Trophies

Cons:
  1. All That Success Was a While Ago

  2. Whatever Is Going On

  3. Old and Very White

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I like the names... but how about someone from Liga MX or South America? People seem really into Marcello Gallardo from his time at River Plate. Thoughts?

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