Is Tata Martino the right man to coach U.S.? Atlanta United players think so

HARRISON, N.J. — Gerardo “Tata” Martino knows how the rumor mill works. He saw his name mentioned as a potential candidate to coach the U.S. national team, and going into any detail about the job could be seen as him either being in the running or actually wanting the job. 

So when asked by Goal if he felt surprised — or anything else — about being linked to the now-vacant U.S. job, the former Argentina boss did his best to avoid the topic, insisting the rumors had no effect on him.

“Nothing happened to me,” Martino, who now coaches Atlanta United, said Sunday. “I wasn’t surprised, or unsurprised. Nothing happened to me.”

Martino has been mentioned as a potential successor to Bruce Arena, along with coaches ranging from Mexico boss Juan Carlos Osorio to U.S. Under-20 coach Tab Ramos. U.S. Soccer is expected to announce a caretaker coach to lead the team in the short term — including in a November friendly against Portugal — with a long-term coach expected to be hired in 2018.

Martino is in his first season in Major League Soccer, and his success with expansion side Atlanta United has turned heads, especially the way he embraced his new role in the North American league.

“His knowledge of the league is very good,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst said. “He understands the demands of the league. He knows the players and the different systems, and the travel demands and all of that. He came in well prepared.”

A former U.S. national team defender, Parkhurst believes Martino could do well as the U.S. coach.

“I don’t see why not. His English would have to get a little bit better,” Parkhurst said with a smile. “He’s coached Paraguay and Argentina, so I don’t see why he couldn’t coach the U.S.”

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Martino had no ties to American soccer before joining Atlanta last winter, but the impression the former Barcelona manager has already made believers of the American players on his team, including current U.S. national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

“You see how he sees the game, in terms of his tactics,” Guzan told Goal. “How he sets us up on certain nights, against certain teams. You get a glimpse into how he sees the game. Not many managers are like that. He gives these guys the ability to do what they do in terms of creating chances and bringing excitement to the stadium.”

Martino is focused on leading Atlanta into the MLS Eastern Conference playoffs right now, but if he can lead the first-year club to an MLS Cup title — something done only once before, by Bob Bradley’s Chicago Fire in 1998 — the calls for him to be seriously considered as U.S. coach will only grow.

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