MARIETTA — In many ways, Gerardo “Tata” Martino has already established a lasting legacy at Atlanta United.
So many of the club’s “firsts” have happened under Martino, including their first playoff berth last year and their first playoff series victory this year over New York City FC earlier this month. The club has already qualified for its first continental competition, the 2019 Concacaf Champions League, thanks to having the highest cumulative point total over the past two years, during which the Five Stripes became the first MLS team to score at least 70 goals in consecutive seasons. To top it off, Martino became the club’s first manager to win MLS Coach of the Year honors.
Yet it's one thing to leave a legacy, and another to leave a legacy as one of the city's sports titans. With it now public that Martino will depart the club following this season, his one true chance to accomplish that latter feat will only occur if he guides Atlanta to 2018 MLS Cup, giving the city its first major sports title since baseball's Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995.)
“It’s difficult for me to think about it individually, but I think it would be very important for the club as an institution and also for the city,” Martino said through a translator before training on Friday. “I think that Atlanta United has had a big impact on the city. I think it would be it would be important for us to get a title."
If anything, players like Miguel Almiron may find extra incentive in trying to bestow that legendary status upon a coach they are very fond of.
“What I’ve experienced with Tata in this two years is something I’ve never gone through with a coach, and I don’t know if I ever will again," Almiron said. "He’s a really good person, he comes up to you and asks you how you are, how you’re doing. He’s like that with all the players. Aside from what he is on the field, off the field, he establishes really good trust with all of his players. I know all the players are going to miss having him as a coach, as well as everyone he’s been in touch with with the staff.”
Almiron himself is thought to be facing a high-profile move sooner or later, with European suitors continuing to inquire and his own agent recently boasting his player will soon feature in the English Premier League.
Atlanta Goalkeeper Brad Guzan is on the other side of a lengthy English stint, and understands that life will go on after Tata at Atlanta, just as it does throughout the football world. By the same token, he also has every bit of confidence that Martino can finish his MLS tenure with a trophy, even with other opportunities looming beyond.
“When our season’s finished, hopefully after MLS Cup, we’ll shake hands, probably have a hug or two and you wish him well," Guzan said. "He’s been great for this club, he’s been great for this team, so you don’t have a bad word to say about him.
"We’ll move on as a club and as a team, but until then, we’re all fighting for the same thing, and that’s winning MLS Cup.”