As the global COVID-19 pandemic caused Major League Soccer to institute a 30-day suspension this past Thursday, Atlanta United president Darren Eales offered words of reassurance to the club’s supporters.
Aside from stopping league play, MLS first teams, reserve sides and academies also aren’t training together until Monday. All policies are subject to review as the public health situation evolves.
"I’d like to say thank you for your patience,” Eales said in an interview on ATLUTD’s website. “We have the best fans in the league, and we really appreciate their understanding during this difficult situation. Everything is evolving very quickly, and we are doing our best to keep everyone as updated as we can as we continue to receive information."
The Five Stripes are in the early days of their 2020 season, the club’s second under head coach Frank de Boer, and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings after 2-1 wins over Nashville SC and FC Cincinnati.
While the suspension of games impacts early-season momentum, Eales acknowledged the severity of the situation and need to proceed with caution.
"This is a serious public health issue that we have not had to face before as a club,” Eales said. “The postponement presents challenges to a lot of people, from our players to our fans to the dedicated staff at MBS on matchdays. On the technical side, in the next 30 days, we will regroup and focus on preparation. It will allow our injured players a little more time to recuperate. "
Speaking of injured players, Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Josef Martinez has not yet had surgery after tearing his ACL during the club's season-opening match at Nashville. Further, he includes that offseason acquisition Matheus Rossetto, a Brazilian midfielder, has a sprained ankle.
Regarding the club’s Concacaf Champions League slate, Atlanta’s quarterfinal second leg against Liga MX side Club America is postponed after Concacaf suspended the competition for 30 days. Atlanta lost the first leg, 3-0, at Estadio Azteca last Wednesday, shortly before governing soccer bodies stepped in.
During these unprecedented times, Eales stressed unity and staying focused on health.
"This is a case where we are all in this together, trying to do everything we can as a club and a society to keep the coronavirus curve as flat as we can,” Eales said. “They are following the guidelines the league has given us; and understand what we all have to do to keep ourselves and our families safe and healthy."