Voices: Greg Seltzer

Atlanta United's and Toronto FC's next coach? Here are 11 candidates

With two cornerstone MLS clubs currently working on head coach searches, it’s a fine time to make another round of potential hire suggestions.

As usual, we've looked past anyone currently holding a managerial job, but have included some folks employed as an assistant or reserve team boss. And as usual, variety is the spice of our recommendations. We have coaches with big club experience and we have guys still looking for their first job in charge of a first team. There are Americans and foreign coaches alike. Some of the suggestions have deep MLS connections, while others have none. What they all have in common is a résumé worth checking out.

While Atlanta United and Toronto FC share a recent history of successes, they're very different sides with different strengths in very different places. As such, we're more direct by pointing all 11 of the coaching candidates – not including one name already employed by the Reds – in one direction or the other.

They're sorted below in alphabetical order.

Phillip Cocu

It's true the Dutchman has struggled at Fenerbahce and overseeing a middling run with Derby County since leaving a strong stint in charge of hometown side PSV Eindhoven. I feel those two jobs weren't right for Cocu's measured approach, hence the spotty results.

What would be right is a veteran team confident enough to dizzy opponents with tactical possession and wise enough to strangle off games they lead. Both things were not so long ago in Toronto FC's repertoire, and the pieces are there to get it all back... PSV West, anyone?

Rudi Garcia

Of course, the first question centers around whether or not the Frenchman would give MLS a whirl. That's fair and all, but one game day experience/training ground visit in Atlanta holds the power of allure.

If the Five Stripes are serious about wanting to get back to suffocating pressure, lightning attacks and, above all, winning, it can't hurt to ring Garcia up. That's precisely the game the former Lyon and Marseille boss pushes, and it never hurts to ask.

Rudi Garcia – Lyon
Ezra Hendrickson

Whenever I do one of these head coach suggestion bits, there are always a few assistants listed. That's because 1) they're quite capable coaches, and 2) promotions from within the staff tend to come few and far between around these parts. 

With nearly a decade working under (in one way or another) Sigi Schmid, Brian Schmetzer and Caleb Porter, Hendrickson fits the bill of a players' manager who also gets a non-nonsense job done. Both Atlanta United and Toronto FC could use a healthy dose of that, but I think his tactical approach more closely aligns with the latter.

Antonio Mohamed

The mercurial erstwhile Monterrey manager has fielded MLS interest before, but there’s perhaps no better time to finally bring him north of the border. Mohamed actually ticks a lot of the same boxes Atlanta coaching legend/compatriot Tata Martino did.

He carries an effervescent personality, a press-into-attack mentality and the smarts to manage each effectively. The 51-year-old offers both entertainment value and success, two things that have been in short supply at Mercedes-Benz Stadium over the last two seasons.

Alessandro Nesta

Would it be uncivilized to suggest a Toronto FC interview for the former CF Montréal defender? I don't want to start anything here, but it might not be a bad idea.

Nesta actually did alright in his two seasons leading Frosinone (who are always up against it in Serie B from a talent expenditure standpoint), but that club changes managers like people change socks. The Italy national team legend likes to play a front foot 3-5-2, and there are plenty of TFC players who know how to do that.

Pat Noonan

We've arrived at another potential option from the "longstanding ace assistant" bin. Noonan came up in the coaching game on Bruce Arena's staff back when the Galaxy were still champions, then has spent the last few years helping Jim Curtin take Philadelphia to new heights. Because of his involvement in the Union's take-no-prisoners aggressiveness, the 40-year-old strikes me as a much better fit for Atlanta United.

Pat Noonan
Javier Perez

One good route to a head coach appointment is to take the interim reins and get results with a squad that had been struggling. Just ask someone like former New England boss Steve Nicol, an erstwhile temporary manager before he built the Revolution into a 2000s juggernaut. 

Not only has Perez grabbed four points off two of the East's beasts, but Toronto FC have looked different to the side that only managed five points from their first 11 games of the season. The players suddenly look comfortable in their roles, which is resulting in more assured soccer as a team, if not also an inside track for the caretaker boss.

Gonzalo Pineda

They say familiarity breeds contempt, but sometimes it works the other way around. As a Seattle Sounders assistant with two MLS Cup battles against Toronto FC under his belt, Pineda has spent countless hours with a scouting microscope on several of their key veterans. If he knows enough to stop them, he knows enough to utilize them. 

Both clubs have a flexible, roll-with-the-punches air about their recent successes, so BMO Field seems a comfy fit for what would be the former Mexican international’s first (and overdue) top post.

Dome Torrent

Let's just cut to the chase: The former New York City FC head coach (who had Perez as his assistant there, mind you) is a tailor-made option for Toronto FC.

Torrent's preferred tactics are more about controlling games with the ball than blowing them up with moments. He's also an ace at both managing big-name vets and bringing along young talent. All of that screams TFC head coach to me.

Dome Torrent
Kolo Toure

The Leicester City assistant is a proper up-and-comer in the coaching world, so this is a "best get while the getting's good" situation. Toure favors tactics that go out and grab the game over ones that sit back and wait patiently, so he definitely fits in the Atlanta United mold.

The main question could revolve around how likely he is to be torn away from a strong Premier League club, but as noted above, the Five Stripes are more than capable of impressing a first-time visitor.

John Wolyniec

Here I am again, pounding the drum for someone to finally give the New York Red Bulls II head coach a first-team shot.

In over six years on the job (see: I told you it was a long wait!), Wolyniec has won and he's sent a long string of useful-or-better players up the ladder (Aaron Long, Tyler Adams, Kyle Duncan and Brian White represent just the tip of the iceberg). He’s done it all while turning the high press into offense by policy, so Atlanta United would seem like a cozy fit.