Darren Eales happy with first look at new Atlanta United

Atlanta United celebrates the beginning of their 5th season where United President Darren Eales speaks before the unveiling the 2021 team uniforms Friday, Feb 26, 2021 during a drive-in at the Home Depot Backyard.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Atlanta United celebrates the beginning of their 5th season where United President Darren Eales speaks before the unveiling the 2021 team uniforms Friday, Feb 26, 2021 during a drive-in at the Home Depot Backyard. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Atlanta United President Darren Eales spent a few minutes with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson on Monday and the two covered a range of topics.

Part of the conversation is below in which Eales’ answers have been paraphrased in some cases and edited in others.

Q: Any update on the team being on streaming platforms like Hulu?

A: No updates at the moment. We know it’s an important issue. We want our fans to be able access as many matches as we can. It’s not really up to us.

Q: Is there new turf at Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

A: We didn’t get new turf. One of the upsides of COVID was we didn’t get any use of the turf.

It’s in great shape.

Q: I asked because someone sent a photo of the turf either being removed or covered up by something brown?

A: Ah. It was being covered up for the upcoming boxing match.

Q: What, if anything, will the team do to honor vice president Carlos Bocanegra as a U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer?

A: We are waiting to get few details. It’s a great honor for Carlos. We are just waiting to get the details.

Q: Was that you not pictured as the opponent in Carlos Bocanegra’s tennis photo the other day?

A: He posted that? Funny story, six years ago when we were in Charleston when we had the affiliation we played a game of tennis that was longest game in tennis because we were both good enough to keep the ball in play but not good enough to hit winners. I won 7-5 but it took three hours to play the game.

When we went to Costa Rica last week we played again.

I won the first game and got trounced 6-1 in the second game.

I had good fun. It was a stark reminder that I need to start a workout campaign.

Q: And play again in six years?

A: Yes!

Q: How proud were you of last week’s performance and were the first 45 minutes an indication of what the team’s supporters can expect in terms of style of play?

A: I think it was good honestly for the whole 90 minutes.

Firstly, they (Alajuelense) are a great team that shouldn’t be underestimated. This is a team that was far and away the best side in Costa Rica. They had a long unbeaten run. They were playing at home so they were motivated.

That first 40 minutes ... first game, new players, new staff, we had that disadvantage.

I thought it was really encouraging. You saw a sense of how we wanted to play. It wasn’t 100 percent sharp but a good indication of how we wanted to paly.

After the setback (red card to Guzan), the team went into the locker room and could have folded but didn’t. Got the penalty. Got the goal. And then put a lot of effort into defending that lead.

It was good to see the way the team fought.

Fantastic result and fantastic performance.

A lot of hard work in tomorrow’s game. They are a very good team and only halfway.

Q: Do you think the club was unfairly criticized for the decision to not allow Miles Robinson, George Bello and Brooks Lennon to go to the Olympic team?

A: We are in a social media world. Everyone has an opinion. We worked closely with U.S. Soccer in the process. They were aware of the situation.

We had a hugely important match in the Champions League. As you know, we had never won our first match in a season.

We were transparent and upfront in the process with the players and U.S. soccer. We were in agreement.

We could only do what was absolutely right for Atlanta United.

It was just disappointing in the end that the U.S. U-23s didn’t qualify.

Q: How is partial ownership of Aberdeen working out so far?

A: It’s been good. It’s been difficult. We have the partnership and then COVID hit.

Now, as we come back to a sense of normalcy there will be a chance for collective benefits.

Jon Gallagher is that type of success story. He was on our second team, went to Aberdeen and played significant minutes for them. He came back here and was one of last year’s successes and is now with Austin. It helped his profile.

That was an example of a win-win.

Hopefully, we will develop more and more successful practices for both sides.

One of the reasons we valued the partnership is their work in the community, just like here with Arthur (Blank) as our owner.

Arthur’s foundation gave a $30,000 donation to Aberdeen’s community trust to help the community.

Seeing Stephen (Glass) go and become their manager. He knows how we play. That is something that will help both parties.

Q: Have you spoken to Frank de Boer in the past year?

A: We’ve both been busy. I sent congrats to him when he got the Dutch national job.

It speaks volumes for the club, Tata (Gerardo Martino) with Mexico, Frank with the Dutch national team, Glassy with Aberdeen. We are a club that accepts that people will come looking here for talent.

I think of it like Alabama football, the number of assistant coaches they lose each year, they don’t mind because they know they will get another and develop them.

We will have to accept losing talent but that means bringing in the next young associate and help them develop. Then when they look back fondly on Atlanta United that will secretly be their favorite club wherever they go.

Q: So you’re saying that Atlanta United is Tata’s favorite club?

A: (Laughs)

Q: Is there an update on hiring Atlanta United 2′s manager?

A: Not at the moment.

Q: Was Stephen Glass interviewed for the Atlanta United job?

A: He was in position of interim manager. He was considered as part of that rolling basis.

Q: I don’t think we’ve received a reason for this but why loan (Franco) Escobar and (Fernando) Meza?

A: For us, in terms of roster management, we had to do something with roster rules and compliances, we had to make the books balance. With Franco and Meza going out on loan, they gave us the flexibility to add the players we did.

Q: So it was balancing the salary cap?

A: Yes.

Q: What are your expectations for the Homegrown players this season, they are part of that pipeline you mentioned before.

A: It’s always interesting when you have a new coach coming in because they will be looking at they squad they have got and all players are identical on day 1.

So that was a really great learning experience for our young players coming in.

Got Machop (Chol) with his first preseason.

Tyler Wolff who has had a little bit more time with the first team.

George (Bello) has a bit more experience.

It’s been heartening to see how they’ve been buckling down under Heinze during the preseason.

It’s important to us, as we grow the club , as you build the club, you have to have talent coming from different paths.

George did a big season last year in terms of the number of minutes, I think he was second on the team. He developed as a player.

This season, George Campbell, he was a part of the squad and came on Tuesday when it was all hands to the pump.

Chop’s been great in preseason. He’s someone that’s taken a chance to put a stake in.

We are excited for that pipeline. It will be a big year for those players.

I’m really hopeful with Atlanta United 2 that we have more chance to play some of our fringe players. Last year they couldn’t move between teams because of COVID protocols.

I think we are getting more strength and depth as the Homegrown pipeline gets bigger.

Q: I felt most bad for Campbell last year because he didn’t get to play. It was almost a lost year for him.

A: It will be a fascinating year for him.

Let’s look at the positive, while he didn’t get to play he did train for a season with the first team.

Q: Are you giving any more consideration to starting a women’s professional soccer team?

A: No, nothing more than it’s something that is on our radar. If it’s something we come into we want to do it the right way like we did with Atlanta United.

There are a lot of things on hold last year because of COVID. As months come upon us it’s something we will look at closely.

Q: Any update on plans for that property the team purchased beside the training ground?

A: As we are now looking into 2021, from a business perspective, it’s certainly moving more toward normal than last year.

That 17 acres becomes more a part of our long-term plan.

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