Atlanta United President Darren Eales said the focus of the franchise is finishing the season with an MLS Cup, and that he won’t begin the search for the team’s second manager until after that game is played on Dec. 8.
Eales needs to replace Gerardo Martino, who recently announced he won’t return for a third season with the franchise.
Eales spoke outside of the visitors locker room on Thursday at Red Bull Arena, where Atlanta United advanced to the championship game with an aggregate 3-1 victory over New York.
“The good thing is as I’ve spoken before is unlike my Premier League days when you had 24 hours usually because you’d sacked a manager and then you replaced him,” said Eales, who came to Atlanta United from Tottenham Hotspur in England. “It’s quite nice that we have until the 14th of January and training, so we’ve got a bit of time in that respect.
“Our focus at the moment is wholly on the season and then we’ll get cracking and our sleeves rolled up. Not only on the manager, but we are looking to strengthen whenever we can , strengthen in depth , the first team, our USL team, the academy. we are always looking to get better in every way we can. in a salary cap league you can’t stay still.”
The club announced in October that Martino had declined to exercise the option on his contract and would leave at the end of the season. He reportedly is in line to take over the Mexican national team.
Eales credited Martino and the players for their performances in the playoffs, saying that fortitude has been a characteristic of the team all season. That started after the season-opening 4-0 loss at Houston, and continued after the 2-0 loss at Red Bulls in September and the 4-1 loss at Toronto in the last game of the regular season that cost the Five Stripes the Supporters’ Shield and a league record for points in a season. Instead, Atlanta United tied the record for the second-most points (69).
That carried over into the playoffs where Atlanta United is 3-1-0 with seven goals scored and just two allowed.
“They knew it was a performance that lacked intensity and just wasn’t up to the usual Atlanta United standard that we’ve come to expect,” Eales said of the Toronto game. “They buckled down and every game in this playoff they’ve come out with that focus and intensity. In the playoffs, ultimately it’s about not making mistakes and being up for the fight. We’ve certainly done that in all the games.
“I credit players and Tata, but to be fair to the whole squad they’ve done it all season.”
Eales said it’s still hard to believe that Atlanta United will host the MLS Cup in just its second season. The game was already close to sold out last night. More than 70,000 people are expected to attend. The club has already set numerous attendance records. Breaking the mark for the title game will be another that seems likely.
After most times that Atlanta United has set a new attendance mark, whether for single-game or averages, Eales has long made fun of the belief that Atlanta is a bad sports town. The MLS Cup will be another opportunity.
And yes, Eales said he’s reading Harry Potter to see if he can levitate Mercedes-Benz Stadium to try to top the tifo done before the NYCFC game in the conference semifinals.
“I’m just hopeful we can put in a good performance,” Eales said. “... I’m just excited and really pleased for the city that we get to host it.”
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