Miami’s Gerardo Martino looking forward to coming ‘home’ to Atlanta

Inter Miami head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino speaks to members of his staff before the first half of a Leagues Cup soccer match against Atlanta United, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Inter Miami head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino speaks to members of his staff before the first half of a Leagues Cup soccer match against Atlanta United, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Gerardo Martino said he is looking forward to coming to a place that feels like home when he brings his new club, Miami, to face one of the former clubs he managed, Atlanta United, on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Martino has coached at Mercedes-Benz Stadium since leaving Atlanta United after guiding them to the MLS Cup in 2018. He led Mexico in friendlies there against Venezuela in 2019 and against Honduras in 2021.

“It’s the city and a club that I have a lot of love for,” he said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After leaving Atlanta United to join Mexico, Martino said he always thought he could return, but gave it nothing more than a thought.

That thought became reality when Martino was hired by Miami in June after it fired Phil Neville. Miami soon announced the signings of several players, led by Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

Martino, helped by some of the same coaches who assisted him in Atlanta in 2017 and ‘18, quickly turned around Miami.

The Herons have moved out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference and into 14th place. It trails D.C. United for the ninth and final place in the playoffs by six points, but has played two fewer matches. The team won the inaugural Leagues Cup and will be in the finals of the U.S. Open Cup against Houston on Sept. 27.

A team that looked lost three months ago already has one trophy and has a chance to win two more.

Martino said he isn’t surprised by the club’s success, crediting the pedigree of the players and the cohesiveness of the organization.

“It remains difficult, and at times we were able to take advantage, but I think when clubs work well, there’s more chance things go how you expect,” he said.

Among the reasons that Martino gave for leaving Atlanta United was he wanted to be able to see his family more. He said hiring his son to help at Miami has helped. Martino also is a grandfather of two. Yes, he said he spoils the two boys.

Martino downplayed a past report that tension had developed between himself and Atlanta United Vice President Carlos Bocanegra during his time at the club.

“I think it’s normal that there’s some friction when you spend a lot of time together,” he said. “And I think sometimes that can be a good thing, too. But always until the last day we continued working with respect.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0

June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1

June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2

June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0

July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0

July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

July 12 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 15 Orlando City 2, Atlanta United 1

July 25 Miami 4, Atlanta United 0 in Leagues Cup

July 29 Cruz Azul 1 (5), Atlanta United (4) 1 in Leagues Cup

Aug. 20 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 0

Aug. 26 Atlanta United 4, Nashville 0

Aug. 30 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 2 Atlanta United 2, FC Dallas 2

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 5 p.m.

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA