Atlanta United club president Darren Eales talks during the ground breaking ceremony of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta GA Tuesday 11, 2017. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

Eales: MLS will return in weeks, not months, once training resumes

Atlanta United president Darren Eales said Monday that he thinks the MLS season will return in weeks once the league gives the green light for players to resume training. Eales said it’s difficult to predict when matches will resume.

“We want to do it safely, that’s the most important thing,” Eales said. “From a sports perspective we are desperate to get back. For the psyche of the country, to be back playing sports, it would be good. But ultimately the most important thing is the safety of everybody. We can’t afford to take any chances.”

Eales said Atlanta United’s players are trying to keep themselves fit. Each player was provided a stationary bike and is monitored daily by the sports-science department.  As far as tactics, Eales said manager Frank de Boer and his staff have been using video sessions with all players.

“We are trying our best to link them together,” Eales said. “It’s tricky. It’s not ideal. But we are doing the best we can so that when we get the go-ahead, when it’s safe, when it’s right and proper for the players to return to training, we are ready to hit the ground running.”

Repeating what was said by league commissioner Don Garber last week, Eales said that the league will try to play all of its 34 rounds this season. The season was suspended after two rounds March 12 to try to lessen the potential spreading of the coronavirus.

Eales seemed confident that each team’s remaining 32 games could be played because most of the calendar year remains, there is more ability to play mid-week games and that the league does have a history of playing its MLS Cup in December — prior to the 2019 season. Atlanta United defeated Portland on Dec. 8, 2018, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to win its title.

“It’s a very easy process for the league to go back to model where we play MLS Cup in December,” Eales said.

Eales said the club hasn’t received any new information regarding the concurrent postponements of the U.S. Open Cup, which the club won last year, or the Champions League, which Atlanta United trails Club America 3-0 after the first leg of the quarterfinal series played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The suspension of those tournaments would open more dates for MLS clubs to play league games.

In other items of note, Eales said that no players or club employees have reported testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Eales said he also doesn’t foresee any layoffs of employees should the league postponement extend deeper into the year.

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