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Silverbacks hire Wynalda as interim coach, advisor

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, including 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,” Silverbacks Chairman Boris Jerkunica said. “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 he 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,” Wynalda said. “This is a case of an underperforming 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, 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,” Silverbacks general manager Andy Smith said. “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.