- Hiring a new manager by the end of the year who has shown a demonstrated ability to play aggressive, positive soccer;
- Getting Martinez, the 2018 MLS MVP, back;
- Mechanisms within the Collective Bargaining Agreement that will allow the team to improve talent;
- Some salary cap flexibility that it didn’t have this year;
- The development of players like George Bello and Jon Gallagher, paired with bright spots such as mid-season acquisitions Jurgen Damm and Marcelino Moreno.
“We want this to be quickly forgotten and start as we meant to go on in 2021,” Eales said.
The club isn’t going to make any wholesale changes to its structure or the roles within the front office. Eales said Vice President Carlos Bocanegra will continue to be responsible for talent acquisition.
It could be argued that this year’s team was the least talented of the four from the inaugural 2017 season. Atlanta United scored just 23 goals, second-fewest in the league, and allowed 30, which was 13th. Losing Martinez, who averaged almost 26 goals per season from 2017-19, was a big reason. Among the other reasons were the lack of consistency from Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco, who Eales implied has yet to find his form. Barco scored just two goals with three assists in 15 appearances this season.
Bocanegra said the roster turnover and building toward 2021 will happen soon. He said decisions on contract options will be made within the next 7-10 days. The team has until the end of the month to make those decisions.
“I do want to say I’m proud pf the players for what they sacrificed,” Bocanegra said. “Very strange year for them. They had to sacrifice a lot.”
Some of the players on the team from South America haven’t been able to see their families in months because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and the compression of the schedule. Interim manager Stephen Glass said earlier this week that it at times was understandably difficult to keep the players focused on training.
But there was blame to go around that doesn’t explain why the team seemed to be affected more than others by the different stops and starts to the season, which Bocanegra acknowledged. The team won back-to-back games just once. It twice had winless streaks of six games. It was able to start the same 11 in consecutive games just once.
“I think that was from top to bottom,” Bocanegra said. “We have to address these areas. Why were some of the other teams more successful? Why were some of the other teams more consistent? In the end, it wasn’t good enough.”
Atlanta United coming games
December 15 vs. Club America in second leg of Champions League quarterfinals. Atlanta United trails 3-0 after the first leg
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