MARIETTA, Ga. — If Atlanta United F.C. fell to the Colorado Rapids this weekend — surely a worst-case scenario for the club chasing the Supporters Shield — it wouldn’t be because the players were distracted.
As rumors swirl about Atlanta head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s fate with the club, two locker room leaders say players are cognizant of the talks and reports, but Martino’s future isn’t taking their eyes off the prize.
“It’s not affecting us at all,” said veteran centerback and team captain Michael Parkhurst. “We’re aware of it. We see stuff online that is posted or written about, so we’re aware of the situation, but day-to-day, it doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t affect anything for this year. Whatever happens with (Martino’s) future — there’s guys on the team that don’t know their future for next year as well — so, it doesn’t affect anything for what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
When seasoned goalkeeper Brad Guzan was asked Thursday at the club’s training ground if he sensed any tension or stress among the team regarding Martino’s job, the veteran goalkeeper simply and sternly replied, “Nope.”
Guzan chalked up all of the “silly season” talk, whether about Martino potentially taking the Argentina national team job or Miguel Almiron being sold to club in Europe, to the Five Stripes’ accomplishments this season.
“It’s part of being a part of a successful team and organization,” Guzan said. “People are always going to be talking, be it about managers, be it about players; players coming in, players going out. There’s always conversations being had. That’s what happens when you are around and affiliated with top talent.”
Recent reports and rumors have linked Martino to national team coaching jobs in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, the United States and others. When asked on Thursday if any football association had contacted him about a vacancy, Martino said, “No.”
Martino, a 55-year-old Argentine, has been coaching since 1998, but the only job he has ever held for longer than two seasons was when he was the coach of the Paraguayan national team from 2007 to 2011, a run that included a 2010 World Cup appearance. Martino has also led the Argentina national team, F.C. Barcelona, Newell’s Old Boys and Libertad, among other posts.
In a recent interview with Colombian radio station Caracol Radio, which was translated and transcribed by journalist Juan G. Arango, Martino identified a deadline of Oct. 1 as when he and Atlanta United have to “define” his future with the club. He also said he was “flattered” to be considered for the Colombia job, a post he nearly took in 2011, but instead took over at Newell’s.
Martino initially signed a two-year deal with Atlanta United to be its head coach, but the contract has an option at the end of this season to extend it for multiple years, according to an MLSSoccer.com report from earlier this summer.
“That’s a date contractually that we have to keep trying to decide the situation, but as I said before, we’re still having talks with the club,” Martino said through a translator Thursday. “It’s everything that goes into a new contract, from the sporting side and also economically. Surely there is a lot of things that I want, but those are for the private conversations. And the club also, obviously, has the things that they want to talk about, things that they want to ask me about. So we’re still in talks.”
Martino added that a dual role of general manager and head coach, something that has become popular among coaches in the NBA and NFL, is not something that he is interested in.
There was also a report that officials from the Mexican national team met with Martino after the Mexico-U.S. friendly in Nashville on Tuesday. Martino said Thursday that meeting never happened.
“I’ve been thankful and appreciative of the (Atlanta) fans ever since the first day, for all of the support they’ve shown to myself and the whole club, and I think the fans will always be like that, because that’s how this club started, with such a great fanbase,” Martino said. “I don’t want to focus this press conference on myself, because that’s all secondary.”
Parkhurst added that he would like to see Martino return as Atlanta’s head coach next year.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here under him,” Parkhurst said. “I would be happy with that.”