Atlanta United have a chance to finish off the best regular season in MLS history next week before then turning their attention to winning MLS Cup.
But once their run in the playoff ends, that will also mark the end of head coach Tata Martino’s tenure.
Officially ending weeks of speculation, Atlanta United announced Tuesday morning that Martino will leave Atlanta after the 2018 season, as Martino declined to extend his contract. The club will immediately begin a detailed global search for a replacement.
According to a club release, the two sides had been involved in “amicable negotiations” about a contract extension but Martino decided to move on for “personal reasons.” No comment was made about his future but recent reports have stated that Martino has verbally agreed to take over as the Mexican national team head coach.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Taking over ahead of the club’s expansion season in 2017, the former manager of Barcelona and the Argentina national team has guided Atlanta to a 38-17-17 record in all competitions over the last two years, including back-to-back berths in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
In 2017, Atlanta became the fourth expansion team to qualify for the postseason, before losing to Columbus in the Knockout Round. This year, led by Josef Martinez’s historic season, Atlanta have already matched the all-time single-season points record at 69 and will capture the Supporters’ Shield with a win at Toronto FC on Decision Day presented by AT&T (4:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
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,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said in a statement. “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.”
The club said it will “immediately begin a detailed global search” for a replacement. Recent reports have indicated that Boca Juniors manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto could be a frontrunner.
“Tata will leave our fans with wonderful memories of our first years, and will always hold a special place in the Atlanta United history books,” Eales said. “We look forward to finishing this season strong together, and wish him nothing but the best in the future.”