MLS Cup: Atlanta United boss Martino's disheartening record in finals

By Tom Webber 8 December 2018 207
MLS Cup: Atlanta United boss Martino's disheartening record in finals

Gerardo Martino's final game in charge of Atlanta United will be a meeting with Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup.

Former Argentina and Barcelona boss Martino has led Atlanta, a team boasting an exciting core of South American talent, to the championship game in just their second MLS season.

The 56-year-old will be keen to sign off with a trophy before taking charge of Mexico, but his history in one-off finals is far from inspiring.

We recount Martino's disheartening record when silverware is on the line.


Copa America 2011

With Argentina on home soil and possessing an attack including Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez, Sergio Batista's team looked primed to win a first senior international trophy since 1993.

It failed to work out that way and Martino's Paraguay were surprise finalists in Buenos Aires, making it all the way to the showpiece despite failing to win a single game.

But they were unable to contain Uruguay, who eliminated Argentina in the last 16 and cruised to a 3-0 win over Paraguay at El Monumental for a record-breaking 15th Copa America crown.


Primera Division Superfinal

Argentina's top flight was rebranded for the 2012-13 season and Martino guided Newell's Old Boys – a team he won three titles with as a player – to first place in the Torneo Final.

That set up a meeting with Torneo Inicial winners Velez Sarsfield in Mendoza, the first championship play-off Argentina had seen since 1991.

Lucas Pratto's fine ninth-minute shot proved enough for Velez to consign Martino to defeat once more.


Copa del Rey

Martino was a surprise appointment at Barcelona ahead of the 2013-14 season following Tito Vilanova's resignation, with some suggesting it was simply an attempt to keep his fellow Rosario native Messi happy.

However, Martino decision to deploy Messi from the right wing and implement a style of play that represented a significant departure from the principles of Pep Guardiola and Vilanova won him little praise.

He managed to guide Barca to a Copa del Rey final against arch-rivals Real Madrid at Mestalla, but Gareth Bale scored a sublime solo goal five minutes from time to hand the Argentine a 2-1 defeat.

The Blaugrana then missed a chance to claim a LaLiga title on the final day of the season when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou by consequent champions Atletico Madrid, who also eliminated them in the Champions League quarter-finals that season.


Copa America 2015

Argentina were far from inspiring in the group stage and scraped past Colombia on penalties in the quarter-finals, but a resounding 6-1 triumph over Paraguay made them look destined for glory.

However, just as he did in the World Cup final defeat to Germany a year prior, Higuain missed a glorious chance to clinch the title in the final against hosts Chile.

Argentina were unable to hold their nerve in a penalty shoot-out, with Higuain firing over and Ever Banega kept out by Claudio Bravo before Alexis Sanchez netted an impudent winner to give Chile their first Copa America title.


Copa America Centenario

Martino kept his job despite that disappointment and Argentina kicked off their campaign by overcoming defending champions Chile 2-1 in Santa Clara – the United States hosting an expanded 16-team tournament.

La Albiceleste scored 16 goals and conceded just one over their next four matches to set up a repeat of the 2015 final at MetLife Stadium.

An ill-tempered affair included eight yellow cards and first-half dismissals for Marcelo Diaz and Marcos Rojo, and Higuain once more missed a chance to settle it before extra time.

The additional 30 minutes was unable to provide a winner and Messi failed to convert Argentina's first spot-kick in the shoot-out, with Chile's 4-2 victory resulting in the Barca star retiring from international football – though he has since returned.

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Tom Webber