Atlanta United has hired yet another coach away from the Seattle Sounders. This time, it’s Sounders Academy Director Steve Cooke decamping to become the head coach of Atlanta United 2, the MLS Next Pro team.
Although this seems like a demotion on paper, as Cooke will be reporting to Atlanta United Academy Director Matt Lawrey, that could be a little deceiving. Cooke apparently has long seen himself more as a coach than an administrator and this moves him back onto the field. Cooke had only been the Sounders Academy Director for about a year and had originally been hired by the organization in 2021 to be the academy’s head coach. Prior to joining the Sounders, Cooke had been an academy coach for Sheffield Wednesday in England and spent several years as an assistant with the Colorado Rapids, even serving as their interim head coach in 2017.
The Sounders Academy Director position has undergone a good deal of turnover in the last few years. Marc Nicholls ran the academy from 2013-2020 before leaving for a technical director position with Charlotte FC. He was replaced by Gary Lewis, who served as Academy Director from 2020-22 before becoming New York Red Bulls II head coach.
Cooke will join several familiar faces in Atlanta, where Garth Lagerwey is the president and Gonzalo Pineda is the MLS head coach.