Atlanta United F.C. confirmed Tuesday what many had already believed to be true.
Beyond the 2018 season, Gerardo “Tata” Martino will not be the club’s head coach.
Martino, 55, declined an option to extend his contract past this season, the club said in a statement. The Argentine manager initially signed a two-year deal with Atlanta United in September 2016, but there was an option for the contract to be extended.
The club said it had “amicable” negotiations with Martino — who does not have an agent, but has his daughter assist with his contracts — but ultimately, Martino decided he would “move on” after the 2018 season, citing “personal reasons.”
ESPN and multiple Spanish-language media outlets have reported Martino has a verbal agreement with Mexico to become the new boss of El Tri. When asked about those reports last week, Martino said he had “nothing to say.”
“This was not an easy decision to make. I have enjoyed my time with Atlanta United very much and am proud of what we have accomplished together in such a short time,” Martino said in a prepared statement. “The decision was not made for financial reasons. Negotiations with the front office were transparent and fair. It was simply the right move for me and my family at this time. The opportunity to build a team from the start does not come along often, and I am grateful to the club and to the fans for putting their trust in me to establish a solid foundation here in Atlanta. What is most important now is that the focus remain on our goals for this season.”
As the club’s first ever manager, Martino has led Atlanta United to an overall record of 38-17-17 over the past two seasons across all contests. This past Sunday, with a win over the Chicago Fire, the Five Stripes clinched a spot in the 2019 Concacaf Champions League, having put together the highest point total in Major League Soccer over the past two seasons.
Over the last two seasons, no team in MLS has claimed more points (124), scored more goals (139) or posted a higher goal differential (+59) than Atlanta. With their 2017 playoff appearance, the Five Stripes became just the fourth expansion team in MLS history to qualify for the postseason.
Atlanta currently sits at the top of the table, one point ahead of the New York Red Bulls in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. Martino has the chance to go out on a high note if Atlanta can win this weekend and then go on to win the MLS Cup, which the Five Stripes are favored to do. If the Five Stripes bring home the MLS Cup, it will be the first pro sports championship for the city of Atlanta since the Braves of Major League Baseball won the World Series in 1995.
In addition to the team accomplishments he oversaw, Martino led a squad that featured seven MLS All-Stars over the past two season, one of which was Josef Martinez, who set the MLS record for goals scored in a single season this year. Martinez is one of several players from South America that came to Atlanta to play under Martino. That group also includes Miguel Almiron, Hector “Tito” Villalba, Ezequiel Barco, Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez, Franco Escobar, Eric Remedi and Jose Hernandez.
“We are very grateful to Tata for his commitment to Atlanta United and for all he has done to help build our club during our first two years in the league,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said in a prepared statement. “True to his reputation, he has been an incredible leader and has set us up for great success moving forward. From the beginning, his vision for Atlanta United was aligned with ours, and his level of experience, talent and leadership has been extremely valuable during this critical time. He will be missed, but we understand and appreciate his reasons for moving on to spend time with family and take on new challenges.”
Atlanta will finish the season out with Martino guiding the Five Stripes from the sidelines, but the club said that a “detailed global search” for a new coach will begin immediately.