Atlanta United’s Eales provides updates related to suspensions

Atlanta United President Darren Eales is interviewed before the start of an Atlanta United uniform-unveiling ceremony at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Friday, February 15, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Atlanta United President Darren Eales is interviewed before the start of an Atlanta United uniform-unveiling ceremony at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Friday, February 15, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Atlanta United President Darren Eales said Friday that while Atlanta United players and coaches haven’t been tested for COVID-19, none have reported showing symptoms of having the coronavirus.

In an exclusive interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Eales said that if any one of the franchise’s employees report showing symptoms, they are being asked to follow the guidelines set forth by health experts.

MLS announced Thursday that it was suspending the league season for at least 30 days because of concerns related to the pandemic. CONCACAF, which runs the Champions League tournament in which Atlanta United is involved, announced Friday that it is suspending all tournaments for at least 30 days.

» More AJC coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Though information is limited and things are “changing by the hour,” Eales tried to provide information on a number of areas affected by the suspensions:

Atlanta United’s hourly employees whose pay is affected by the suspensions will receive their usual pay. Additionally, the team is working on a plan for all game/event day staff that were scheduled to work events that have been postponed. Atlanta United was supposed to host Sporting KC in a league game Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Club America on Wednesday in the Champions League at Kennesaw State. Atlanta United’s following games were on the road at Chicago on March 21 and at Cincinnati on April 5. It is scheduled to host Portland on April 19.

MLS mandated that teams can’t train as large groups until Monday. Eales said Atlanta United and Atlanta United 2 are planning to resume training Monday, but are waiting on protocols from MLS and USL. He said MLS is in discussions with the NBA and NHL, among others, about information related to re-starting training.

Atlanta United hasn’t heard from the league or CONCACAF about when the games affected by the suspensions will be played. He said teams are giving the league the dates their venues are available. Eales said he doesn’t yet know if the second leg of the semifinal against Club America can be moved from Kennesaw State to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Eales said there are no more events this year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium that will take long build-outs, like the Final Four. Atlanta United’s first home game in the Champions League was moved from Mercedes-Benz Stadium to Kennesaw State because of Monster Jam and motocross events. Its game against Club America was going to be played at Kennesaw State because of work that was going to be done at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Final Four men’s college basketball event, which has seen been cancelled.

The team is waiting to hear form the league about the possibility of transfers or trades. Eales said at the moment there are bigger concerns than either of those things.

Manager Frank de Boer was hoping the team could sign a striker to replace the injured Josef Martinez. He suffered a torn ACL in the season-opening win at Nashville. Martinez hasn’t yet undergone surgery. Eales said he hopes that some of the team’s injured players will be able to rehab and return to full health during the next 30 days. The injured players have been given personalized rehab plans. That group includes centerbacks Miles Robinson (quad), Franco Escobar (dead leg) and Laurence Wyke (concussion), fullback Edgar Castillo (rib) and midfielder Matheus Rossetto (sprained ankle). Two players that Atlanta United has on loan, Andrew Carleton at Indy Eleven and Lagos Kunga at Memphis, will stay with those teams for now because that is where they are registered.

“It’s amazing to think that less than 48 hours ago we were playing in Mexico City,” he said. “As soon as we get anything, we will update with the information.

“The main thing is as a country we get through this together. It makes you realize there are bigger things than sports out there.”