Atlanta United have ended the Frank de Boer chapter, and are on the hunt for a new head coach that can get them back on track.
As you'd expect, we've come up with some candidate suggestions. Though you might be surprised to learn that de Boer's points-per-game performance in Atlanta was only .05 below that of Tata Martino, it's safe to say that his style rarely came off as comfortable for the team. That's what we're basing our "counsel" on: coaches that can prove a good fit in a talented side playing for tuned-in supporters that expect success.
We've shied away from head coaches currently under contract, with one exception who's on an imminently expiring deal. The possible contenders on offer range from fairly simple lures all the way to one manager that qualifies as a sky-high aspiration. Because if you can't dream a little, what's the point?
And of course, what would a list be without a few honorable mentions to kick it off: Pedro Caixinha, Ralf Rangnick and Jan van Winckel.
Javier Aguirre on the bench for Leganes during a game against Barcelona. | Reuters
Some may scoff at suggesting the former Mexico manager, who has just departed from a game but unsuccessful La Liga relegation rescue job at Leganes. Yes, his tactical approach can wander and he hasn't really overseen an excellent club stretch since he was in charge at Atletico Madrid over a decade ago. Still, he has a high opinion of MLS, likes the pressure-into-offense game that was a hallmark of Martino's Atlanta United side and can be a steadying hand for a club that wants one.
This is probably the most out of the box pick, situationally. He is still under contract at Gremio until the end of the year, and has never managed outside of Brazil. If the Five Stripes can wait a spell, Renato Gaucho may be worth hitting up. Despite an easygoing personal style with the squad, he's quite the character and dives deep into tactics that align well with the style Atlanta United would love to recover. I can't say if he can be lured, or even if he speaks English, but hey, that's what first calls are for.
If the Five Stripes are intent on bringing back a hellbent attacking approach, Heinze (who left Velez Sarsfield of his own accord in March) should be near the top of their wish list. Having molded his style by obsessively studying his former Argentina boss Marcelo Bielsa, he loves to spread the field and drive up the gut. Even if his defensive systems could use a little work, that sort of approach will sound both familiar and appetizing to fans in Atlanta. Heinze is the least experienced manager on this list, but has already performed restoration operations at two clubs back home.
Since leaving NYCFC in 2018, Vieira has been linked with a move back to MLS on more than one occasion. And that's hardly surprising given the success he enjoyed in the Bronx in what was his first head coaching job. After a fifth-placed position in Ligue 1 with Nice last season and qualifying for the Europa League, it is unlikely he will be temped back stateside at the moment. But, while he is likely to be keen to be eyeing a top job in Europe at some point soon, his teams play the kind of proactive soccer that would appeal to Atlanta fans.
Aitor Karanka during his time managing Nottingham Forest in the English Championship. | Reuters
The former Colorado Rapids defender is an intriguing potential target. A Nottingham Forest stint that ended 18 months ago didn't go so well, but he impressed prior to that with Middlesbrough. Karanka cut his managerial teeth at Real Madrid working under Jose Mourinho, but offers a more defense-based approach to a similar 4-2-3-1 pressing shape. Scoring goals has been a problem with some of his Championship rosters, to be sure, but this manner of playing could actually help unleash guys like Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martinez into space more often.
Would Atlanta United turn to an MLS assistant? Or someone still waiting for their first head coaching post? I don't know and I don't know, but if they did, Noonan would be among the top options. The Bruce Arena disciple has been helping Jim Curtin mold Philadelphia into a genuine contender since the start of the 2018 season. For example, Noonan should get a fair amount of credit for the development of Brendan Aaronson. He's interviewed for head coaching jobs in the past, but is still waiting for his first chance to take the reins.
Bob Bradley's right-hand man at LAFC is another guy high up on that list of well thought of MLS assistants priming for their first shot at being the main man running a club. Razov has also learned from Sigi Schmid and Brian Schmetzer, so you know his tutelage has been first class. Of course, we have no way to know what sort of tactics he prefers, but it stands to reason that helping Bradley push the tempo and set offensive records for the last two-and-a-half years has left quite an impression.
A third current MLS assistant on this list, Hendrickson has paid his dues as an assistant for the Seattle Sounders, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, LA Galaxy and now with the high-flying Columbus Crew. The 48-year-old also has experience leading a team, doing so with Seattle Sounders 2 for its first four seasons in USL. After much success as an assistant, including a Supporter's Shield victory with the Sounders in 2014, is now his time to get a chance at a leading role with an MLS club?
Mauricio Pochettino while in charge of Tottheman, who he led to the Champions League final in 2019. | ActionImages
Yes, I'm fully aware that landing the former Tottenham tactician is a longshot, even if he's already declared that we can expect him in MLS one day. After all, Pochettino is supposedly a Barcelona target at the moment. I also know that he runs a high-energy attacking system, develops youngsters well and that deep-pockets Atlanta aren't afraid of shooting for the moon with personnel chases. To boot, I know that he's already shot down attractive overtures from the likes of Benfica and Juventus. As my mom always told me, it never hurts to ask.
Fun fact: Of all the head coaches in MLS history with at least 50 games on their ledger, the former NYCFC boss holds the fifth-highest points-per-game average. That certainly explains why several league teams have reputedly contacted Torrent since he departed Yankee Stadium. If Atlanta are interested, they may want to hurry, though. Reports out of Brazil have Flamengo meeting with him to discuss their vacant job this weekend.
Editor's note: The original article did not adequately reflect the diversity of coaching talent qualified for this role. The post has now been updated accordingly. We will use this as an opportunity to learn and to fulfill our commitment to reflect diverse perspectives in our content.