In the 3rd scene of Act III of William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, the 15th and first half of the 16th line read:
I can’t make any other response than thank you,
And thank you, and always thank you;
Tweet from Atlanta United President Darren Eales Friday afternoon referenced the game, which immediately led some to believe that another player was on his way to the club. But this particular tweet was different in that it announced an exit: his own. And after 8 years with Eales at the helm, Atlanta is now in a position to seek his replacement.
Eales was quick to endear himself to the club’s burgeoning fanbase. A regular at tailgates, he wasn’t afraid to strike up a conversation, often, well, participate in pre-game activities from time to time. Those, including me, who had the opportunity to speak with him at press conferences – and others who were lucky enough to sit with him one-on-one – remember someone who was nothing short of cordial in every interaction. And, of course, there were the patent tweets.
To say it will be a difficult task to replace Darren Eales as president of Atlanta United is an understatement. And whoever is ultimately selected will join a club that burst onto the MLS scene in its early days, but is now a shell of it. Who might be on Arthur Blank and Steve Cannon’s radar?
Garth Lagerwey, Seattle Sounders General Manager/President of Football
If there’s one club others in the league aspire to be, it’s probably the Seattle Sounders. Since Lagerwey joined the Sounders in 2015 after serving as General Manager of Real Salt Lake for 7 years, they have appeared in 4 MLS Cups (winning 2); won the Concacaf Champions League, the first MLS team to do so in its current version; and have only managed to get out of the 1st round of the MLS Cup Playoffs once. Essentially, outside of a Club World Cup triumph (I say that ironically), there’s not much left for him to do, so perhaps is he looking for a new challenge elsewhere? It also helps that he knows Atlanta’s head coach quite well.
As Jeremiah Oshan of Sounder At Heart notes, however, if Lagerwey – who faces a vote this year by the Club Alliance to retain his services, which should be a formality – is courted by Blank and Cannon, the Sounders could make him an offer that would make it difficult for him the walk. If he lands in Atlanta, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to bring in his own technical staff, which could amount to a split with Carlos Bocanegra. (Such is the deal, though.)
Dimitrios Efstathiou, Vice President of Football Operations and Strategy, Atlanta United
Atlanta could come to the conclusion that the ideal candidate to succeed Eales is just down the hall. Efstathiou hasn’t been with the club for very long (he arrived last August from MLS, where he was previously the league’s vice president of player relations and head of legal affairs), but he was hired to help Atlanta navigate the financial side of things. Unlike Lagerwey’s case, if Efstathiou gets the job, it could bode well for Bocanegra staying with the club for the sake of continuity. That said, having been in Atlanta for just under a year, his working relationship with Bocanegra isn’t that extensive, so it might not be out of the question for him to bring a new face with which to it’s more familiar to oversee the technical side of things.
Nick Kelly, former president of Charlotte FC; former CEO, Tepper Sports & Entertainment
Charlotte FC tapped Kelly, a former vice-chairman of Anheuser Busch InBev, to be its first chairman in February 2021 before being promoted to oversee owner David Tepper’s sports portfolio a year later. In May, after just 3 months with Tepper Sports & Entertainment, he strangely resigned, just weeks before the dismissal of former head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez. Despite rumors of front-office discord in Queen City, Kelly’s role in starting an expansion that appears to be gaining momentum deserves recognition, and Atlanta presents a much more stable executive environment, despite the field performance.