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Friday February 12th, 2016 7:26AM

Silverbacks name Wynalda as interim head coach, advisor

By staff
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Silverbacks have appointed former U.S. Men's National Team star Eric Wynalda as the team's interim head coach and team advisor, the club announced Monday.

Wynalda, 43, will handle all team-related decisions effective immediately, and that will include finding a permanent head coach for the club. He will take over the roles previously filled by Silverbacks Director of Soccer Rodrigo Rios and Head Coach Alex Pineda Chacón.

"We're extremely excited to have Eric join our organization as an interim head coach and team advisor," said Silverbacks Chairman Boris Jerkunica. "Hiring Eric is another big step in our continued quest to add more experience and professionalism to our franchise."

A native of Westlake Village, Calif., Wynalda is one of the most decorated players in the history of American soccer. He has scored the second-most goals (34) in U.S. Men's National Team history, and is tied for the seventh-most caps, having made 106 total appearances. The 2004 National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee represented the U.S. in three FIFA World Cups, and was the first American-born player to play in the Bundesliga, Germany's top soccer division.

"I'm absolutely thrilled for this opportunity with the Silverbacks; it was truly one that I didn't want to pass up," said Wynalda. "This is a case of an under-performing team, and I'm honored that the club chose me to take on the challenge of turning things around and helping the Silverbacks fulfill their potential on the field."

As a coach, Wynalda recently made national headlines when he led Cal FC, an amateur team from the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), to the fourth round of the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Cal FC knocked off a pair of professional teams, USL Pro side Wilmington Hammerheads and MLS side Portland Timbers, before falling to Seattle Sounders FC, who topped the Silverbacks earlier in the tournament.

"Eric is very well-respected and he's someone who has tremendous knowledge of the game through his career as a player, coach, and TV broadcaster," said Silverbacks General Manager Andy Smith. "Through our conversations with him, it's clear how much he studies the game, and we're convinced he has the leadership qualities to turn this team around."

With the arrival of Wynalda comes the departure of Rios and Chacón. Rios was a fixture within the Silverbacks organization for the past seven years, spending four seasons as the team's captain and another three with the club as Park Director and Director of Soccer. Chacón, another former Silverbacks player, spent three seasons with the club as an assistant coach until being promoted to head coach in 2012.

Wynalda's new position with the Silverbacks will not affect his role at FOX Soccer, for whom he has served as a lead broadcast analyst since 2009.

He will be with the team on Monday in Atlanta before leaving for Cary N.C., where the Silverbacks will take on the Carolina RailHawks on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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