Q&A with Atlanta United’s Garth Lagerwey: Does club expect rules changes?

Sun rises over Atlanta United Training Ground fields in Marietta before the voluntary individual workouts Wednesday May 6, 2020.

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez

Sun rises over Atlanta United Training Ground fields in Marietta before the voluntary individual workouts Wednesday May 6, 2020.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series of interviews with Atlanta United President Garth Lagerwey.

It was Decision Day in Cincinnati, Atlanta United was preparing for its big match against the home team and there was plenty of noise in the team hotel before the game.

In the midst of it all, franchise president Garth Lagerwey, comfortably dressed in shorts and an Atlanta United jacket, had a lengthy, exclusive conversation with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that touched on a variety of topics. MLS rules changes, the futures of key members of the team and the thought of starting a women’s franchise were among the topics discussed.

Questions and answers have been paraphrased for clarity and/or brevity.

Q: Is the club discussing trying to expand the training ground?

A: It’s something we’re looking at. Again, I don’t want to hazard a guess as to how we land on that.

Look, when it was built, it was arguably the best training facility in the country. And I think in this phase of MLS, I think it could have been literally eight new facilities built in the past eight years, or whatever it is. And so we’re always looking to be the best in class. And we are examining that as a possibility. And I wouldn’t hazard a guess yet now as to what direction we take.

Q: Not moving it?

A: No. Just optimizing the space.

Q: Going into this offseason, now that you’ve had almost a year, are there any changes, not personnel, but added positions, or new focuses for the front office to try to help the club in the 2024 season, new jobs added or anything like that?

A: We’re heading into budget season right now. So we’ll certainly sit down and look at that.

Again, I think it’s really important to get to play the whole season, get the totality of the season and look back and look at how did your Academy teams do? How did your (Atlanta United) 2s do?

Because again, those things are in the books, right? And we know that those teams weren’t successful this year. But you kind of unpack why. And then you have to unpack how does that impact the first team and then you just have to prioritize resources, right?

So a different outcome for the first team does have a significant knock-on effect for those other teams just in terms of how you can allocate resources because you can say, all right, we need to improve that pathway based on the outcomes of those teams. But the level of attention you pay to that, though, the things that you lean into depends on how urgent it is to fix things for the first team.

So ... we are going to look at everything. And we are not afraid to restructure if that’s what’s required to become optimal, not just in our player signings, but in our club.

Q: Have you sketched out any ideas?

A: Oh, yeah. And I’ve tried real hard to observe, and to take lots of notes, and to have lots of meetings and to kind of gather my thoughts. And you know, to the point, I think, after a full cycle, a full year on the job, I think, then you can take a deep breath and be like, “OK, this isn’t enough time, I know who’s effective and what roles I know, what we do well, and then what we don’t do as well.” Now, let’s look again, holistically, comprehensively. What do we want to change going forward? You know, and this is the chunk of time to do it too, right? When you have two months to reset.

Q: Going into these two months, you have an idea who’s not going to be on the roster simply because their contracts are up, or have an idea of what positions I think that you want to sign. But there’s also this cloud hanging over MLS right now about possible changes in wake of Lionel Messi’s signing, and all this focus on the league. Do you anticipate MLS relaxing any of the player acquisition mechanisms, or roster construction mechanisms?

A: It’s out of our control. They might, they might not. The next Board of Governors meeting is December 13 and 14th in New York. And so if they change something there, then obviously we’ll adjust accordingly. But it’s just, it’s not up to us. So it makes no sense to plan on some hypothetical that may or may not ever happen. And so, to be clear, like if they change the rules in December, we’ll have to change course a little bit and adjust and MLS is kind of constantly evolving and looking for new solutions.

There’s been lots of stuff written about this in the media. What I would say is I am not privy to those conversations in the league office and it’s ultimately the league office that will decide and then the owners will decide as to how they want to run the league and where they want to take it.

For more content about Atlanta United

Follow me on Twitter @DougRobersonAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta United News Now

On Instagram at DouglasDavidRoberson

Atlanta United coverage on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Southern Fried Soccer podcast can be found

Apple - https://apple.co/3ISD6Ve

Spotify - https://spoti.fi/3L8TN0C

Google podcasts - https://bit.ly/32KlZW3

If you are listening to us for the first time, please follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcast ... and if you like what you hear, please give us a good rating so we can grow the show. If you have questions about the MLS team, you can email Doug Roberson at droberson@ajc.com, DM him on Twitter @dougrobersonajc or call 404-526-2527.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a special offer for our podcast listeners. If you subscribe today, you can get three months of unlimited digital access for just 99 cents. That’s all of our sports coverage, politics, breaking news, investigations, food and dining, and so much more on AJC.com. Plus, access to our ePaper and our assortment of newsletters. So, join our community by going to subscribe.ajc.com/podcasts that’s subscribe.ajc.com/podcasts so you always know what’s really going on.

Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0

June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1

June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2

June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0

July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0

July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

July 12 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 15 Orlando City 2, Atlanta United 1

July 25 Miami 4, Atlanta United 0 in Leagues Cup

July 29 Cruz Azul 1 (5), Atlanta United (4) 1 in Leagues Cup

Aug. 20 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 0

Aug. 26 Atlanta United 4, Nashville 0

Aug. 30 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 2 Atlanta United 2, FC Dallas 2

Sept. 16 Atlanta United 5, Inter Miami 2

Sept. 20 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 1

Sept. 23 Atlanta United 4, Montreal 1

Oct. 4 Philadelphia 3, Atlanta United 2

Oct. 7 Atlanta United 1, Columbus 1

Oct. 21 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

About the Author