Stejskal: Why Atlanta United chose to announce Tata Martino's exit now

Tata Martino - Atlanta United - Looks in the distance

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that manager Tata Martino will leave the team following this season after he turned down a contract extension from the club.

According to a source, Martino, whose initial two-year contract was set to expire following this season, didn't inform club brass of his decision to end negotiations until after Atlanta’s 2-1 win against the Chicago Fire on Sunday.

Reports connecting Martino to the vacant Mexico national team head coaching position have increased in frequency in recent weeks, with several Mexican outlets reporting that the former Barcelona and Argentina manager has verbally agreed to take over El Tri.

The source couldn't confirm whether Martino has accepted the Mexico job, but did say that the steady stream of leaks prompted Atlanta to make their announcement on Tuesday and not attempt to hold it until after the season.

The club wanted to end the speculation around whether Martino would return to Atlanta on their terms and with as much time as possible before the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. Their nightmare scenario was news of his departure breaking a day or two before a playoff game. By making their announcement on Tuesday, the club feels like they’ll be able to make it through a few days of exit-related news before fully turning their attention to Sunday’s regular season finale at Toronto FC on Decision Day presented by AT&T (4:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info) and their eventual Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

Atlanta will clinch the Supporters’ Shield and break the all-time single-season MLS points record with a win on Sunday. They’d still have a chance at the Shield with a loss or draw and at the record with a draw, but only if last-place Orlando City earns a result on Sunday at the second-place New York Red Bulls, who are just one point behind Atlanta.

Hired ahead of the club’s 2017 expansion season, Martino has a 38-17-17 record in all competitions with Atlanta. Over the last two years, no MLS team has earned more points (124), scored more goals (139) or posted a higher goal differential (+59) than the Five Stripes. The club secured a spot in the 2019 Concacaf Champions League by clinching the best record in MLS over the past two seasons with their win on Saturday.