AMBSE CEO Steve Cannon lays out plan for hiring Atlanta United’s next president

Steve Cannon began work Feb. 1 as chief executive officer of AMB Group, the parent company of the Falcons and Arthur Blank’s other businesses. KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC file

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Steve Cannon began work Feb. 1 as chief executive officer of AMB Group, the parent company of the Falcons and Arthur Blank’s other businesses. KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC file

Atlanta United’s next president will be expected to annually strive for three things, according to Steve Cannon, CEO of Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment, which owns the MLS club.

  • Win championships;
  • Run a great business;
  • Be a pillar of our community.

Speaking Thursday, Cannon said those are the things that outgoing President Darren Eales did well. Eales’ last day with Atlanta United will be Aug. 8. He will take over as CEO of Newcastle in England’s Premier League on Aug. 22. Cannon said Eales will be honored by the club for his achievements, which includes winning the MLS Cup in 2018, the Campeones Cup and U.S. Open Cup in 2019, as well as setting attendance records and business records for kits sold.

“Nothing but thanks and gratitude for the man, the individual, what he’s done, what he’s meant for our enterprise, for our associates,” Cannon said.

The club will hire a search firm in an attempt to find someone with global soccer experience as well as knowledge of MLS. Cannon said he will begin interviewing firms next week and hopes the president will be hired by the end of the year. Cannon said he hasn’t spoken with any candidates, though his inbox is full with emails from people expressing interest.

“There is no self-inflicted urgency to get this done quickly,” Cannon said.

Cannon said there will be a team to look at soccer-metrics related to candidates, and that he will be looking at culture, values and leadership. He said Blank has high expectations.

“So I need a great leader who lives our values every single day, understands who we are culturally as an organization, because if you want to work for Arthur Blank, it’s not just about what you do, it’s about how you do it,” Cannon said. “So you’ve got to live values every single day.

Cannon implied that Dimitrios Efstathiou, the club’s vice president of soccer operations and strategy, will not be a candidate.

Though Eales is leaving after eight years with the franchise, Cannon said the club will retain its philosophy of buying and developing young players, and it will remain active in the transfer market because Blank is “100 percent” committed to the club’s success. Under Eales, Atlanta United set several transfer records within MLS for purchasing players such as Ezequiel Barco and Thiago Almada.

“We think that is going to absolutely be a key to future success inside of Major League Soccer,” Cannon said. “So it starts and ends with talent, talent development, the degree to which we can grow our own through our academies, and through our own territories, and then acquire from the global game, we’re going to continue that.”

Cannon, who is serving as day-to-day interim president of the club, said he will lean on Vice President Carlos Bocanegra to keep the club moving forward on the soccer side. Bocanegra signed a four-year contract extension after the 2021 season. The team is four points below the playoff line with 13 games remaining. It has been affected by 20 injuries that have resulted in players missing at least one game this season. Cannon said he and Blank are frustrated with the results, but understand the impact of injuries and are confident that manager Gonzalo Pineda will make up those four points and the team will be in the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. Pineda said that Cannon has met with him and the team.

“They’re gonna find a working rhythm together that is going to be naturally different from the working rhythm that Darren and Carlos established,” Cannon said of Bocanegra and the next president. “So I’m confident that we’ll be able to find that and that the two will be able to work in harmony with one another.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 21 at Columbus, 5:30 p.m., FS1

August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE