Tata Martino knows all about how to succeed right off the bat in MLS. The current Mexico coach was the man in charge of Atlanta United when they electrified the league as an expansion team in 2017, reaching the playoffs in their first year and then winning MLS Cup the following season. He is the perfect person, then, to offer advice to those behind the team in Charlotte, one of two clubs that will join the league in 2021.
Martino was in the Queen City this week to promote Mexico's friendly there against the Czech Republic in March. While there he was asked by The Charlotte Observer who Charlotte team owner David Tepper should hire as coach and recruit to be the bedrocks of the team on the field.
"As a coach, there are two I like a lot: The coach of the U.S. Men’s National team, Gregg Berhalter, and the coach of Sporting Kansas City, Peter Vermes," he said. "As far as players, there are a lot. I’m gonna pick domestic players: D.C. United’s Julian Gressel, New York Red Bulls' Aaron Long and Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan."
Two of those three players, of course — Gressel and Guzan — were key figures for Martino in Atlanta. Building a successful expansion team, though, Martino added, is a collaborative effort.
"There needs to be a certain amount of confidence between everybody that’s working together to build a team," he said. "At the same time, you cannot put aside your convictions. If you put aside your convictions, it’s very hard to be a coach and instill your philosophy."
Before Charlotte and Austin FC join the league in 2021, there will be two new teams that debut in MLS this year: Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC. Just this week, Miami landed a major piece of their expansion puzzle by signing Mexico midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, a man that Martino is well-equipped to pass comment on. And the Argentine has nothing but positive things to say about the former Monterrey man.
“Rodolfo is a great guy and he works really well,” Martino told the media while in Charlotte. “He’s a standout player with really good technical skills and he has good vision. He’s a soccer player who is committed to build-up play. He’s an excellent signing for Miami and he has the advantage of working with and knowing his coach Diego Alonso at Monterrey and Pachuca. This will shorten his adjustment period.“