Atlanta United begins a most important year

Atlanta United is in the early days of what may be considered the most important year in the expansion MLS team’s history.

President Darren Eales, technical director Carlos Bocanegra and director of soccer operations Paul McDonough have a long list of things to accomplish, starting with developing or focusing plans for how they will approach the 2017 MLS Combine by attending this year’s event in Ft. Lauderdale. The combine will be held Thursday-Tuesday.

The following week is the draft, which will be held Jan. 14 in Baltimore. Atlanta will make its first pick in team history in the 2017 draft, almost certainly selecting a player who will be invited to participate in the 2017 combine.

There’s also an academy coach to hire, a training ground to build, a scouting network to build or evaluate, thousands of players worldwide to discuss, marketing plans to hammer out, uniform combinations to approve….and that’s just a few of the more obvious things.

Once a week over the next several weeks, portions of an interview with Eales held in December will run in the AJC Soccer Insider and will cover various topics that the team must accomplish during the pending year before it begins play in 2017.

This week will focus on the hiring of the director for the team’s youth academy. Questions and answers have been edited and in some cases paraphrased for brevity and clarity.

Q: When will the academy director be hired?

A: We will look to hire early in 2016, get the person in and then gear up on youth coaches, sports science and medical in summer 2016.

Q: How many youth teams will they oversee?

A: Five teams, ages 18, 16, 14, 13, 12. Each will have a head coach and assistant coach, plus support staff of sports science, medical and administration. It will be roughly 15 people.

Carlos will oversee it and the director will run the academy.

Q: What should be the background of the person hired to run the academy?

A: I want a proven track record in developing players. I’d like someone who is strong as a c coach/educator, strong coaching background because they will be coaching our coaches.

As I’ve said, this will be a beacon for other youth clubs in the area to learn from. We want to drive the standard of coaching in the whole state.

Q: What will be on their resume?

A: Top coaching badges. An ability to develop players, not just purely coaching, but will take a holistic view of it of not just the pitch, but teach lifestyle skills, and can spot talent. It’s very important to have a pathway, ‘How do I take him from talented 15 years old to Atlanta United?’

They will be organizing the academy. It’s someone who is going to be running it like a business unit. They are going to need that managerial skill as well.

Combine time: The MLS combine will begin on Thursday in Ft. Lauderdale. The combine will last until Tuesday. The draft will be held in Baltimore on Jan. 14.

There are two Atlanta natives, Mitchell Lurie and Jordan McCrary, who will participate in the combine. I’ll have a story about them running later this week.

Here are a few mock drafts for you to peruse if you would like to get an idea what type of player Atlanta United may select next year.

Soccer by Ives (a website you should bookmark)

SB nation.com

Draft utopia

Good reads: As if his life wasn’t good enough, Cristiano Ronaldo said he will live like a king when he retires.

Grant Wahl’s soccer predictions.

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