As the Atlanta Silverbacks get into North American Soccer League (NASL) Fall Season play, the team will have a new coaching direction. The club announced Friday morning that its technical director, Eric Wynalda, will be on the bench for the final time when FC Edmonton comes to town this Saturday. He will continue to hold his title as technical director, but that role won’t include coaching the team.
Jason Smith, who coached the Silverbacks from 2005-2008, will begin his second stint as the club’s head coach, replacing Wynalda on the bench for the remainder of the season.
“Eric has sacrificed a great deal this season when it comes to taking on the responsibility of coaching the team,” said Silverbacks President & General Manager Andy Smith. “The amount of time and effort he has invested in our club is remarkable, and we support his decision to spend more time with his family and continue on as just the technical director as we bring in Jason Smith to coach the team.”
Wynalda took over the club’s coaching responsibilities before the season and implemented a system that would see him manage the team during games and key practices. The former U.S. Men’s National Team star, who also serves as a TV analyst for FOX Sports, began to see his schedule shift as the NASL Spring Season wore on.
“When we sat down at the beginning of the season, we came up with a plan and a schedule that would have worked, but my role with FOX changed dramatically and that was an unforeseen change,” Wynalda said. “During Champions League and FA Cup, it went from commuting from LA to commuting from Europe, and it made things very difficult. We were trying to do the best we could under the circumstances, but with the high probability of future schedule changes, I decided that it was unfair to put the club through any further instability.”
Smith is very familiar with the Silverbacks organization, having managed the team in USL play for four seasons. Under Smith, the Silverbacks reached the 2007 USL Final, where they would eventually fall to Seattle Sounders FC. A former standout as a player at Truett-McConnell College, Smith has also been at the helm of two collegiate programs: Piedmont College and Pfeiffer University.
“I think Jason Smith is a perfect fit given the circumstances that we currently have,” Wynalda said. “He is familiar with the club, and demonstrated great management skills during the team’s USL seasons. He also has a great reputation in the community, so we’re very excited to have him here.”
Smith will report directly into Wynalda, who will continue to handle player personnel and scouting. The Silverbacks posted a 3-1-5 record under Wynalda’s guidance during the NASL Spring Season, and made a run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, beating a pair of Major League Soccer teams along the way.
“My love for this club will never stop. Just because I won’t be in Atlanta as much as I used to be, I will continue to work extremely hard to make sure that the team heads in a successful direction,” Wynalda said. “Whether it is through scouting, consulting, guidance, or helping the coaches find the right direction and philosophy, I’ll be doing everything I can to ensure that this team accomplishes what it wants to down the road.”
The club announced one more coaching move on Friday, revealing that assistant coach Ricardo Montoya has been relieved of his duties. The Costa Rican served under Wynalda during the NASL Spring Season, and stepped in to lead the team in his absence on a few occasions. Montoya had previously been the head coach of the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves before joining the first team staff.
Wynalda will coach his final game on Saturday when the Silverbacks host FC Edmonton at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.