MARIETTA, Ga. — As Atlanta United prepare for one of their most important weeks of the 2019 season, including a U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Orlando City and important league matches against NYCFC and the LA Galaxy (Saturday, 5 pm ET | FOX in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada), much of the talk around the team is centered around what’s happening off the field.
Earlier this week, during MLS All-Star festivities in Orlando, two of Atlanta’s representatives in Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Ezequiel Barcospoke to media about some of the struggles the team has endured this season under new manager Frank de Boer.
If you feel like you’ve heard this one before, you’re not crazy.
The sentiments spoken by the two players echoed similar criticisms from what Pity Martinez and — to a lesser extent — Josef Martinez have said earlier this season about adjusting to the Dutch manager.
But the desire to speak out may not be universal on the roster.
“I'm kind of tired of it to be honest with you,” said Julian Gressel on Friday when asked what he thought when he first saw the quotes coming out of Orlando. “This is nothing that should be outside the locker room, I think. And obviously then guys are maybe misunderstood, and then you have to comment again and all that. It's kind of just a lot of back and forth. I'm a guy that likes to either keep it to myself or within the locker room, and I want to focus on us playing and performing well.”
A day after Gonzalez Pirez’s initial quotes were publicized in the media, the player clarified his statement, as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“I read the interviews,” he said. “It looks like I’m unhappy. It’s not like that. Things are changing. This is true. We are different, but we are trying to do our best. I don’t have a problem with anybody.”
De Boer told media Friday that he maintains an open-door policy for players to use to talk to him privately about anything — something Gressel acknowledged he’s utilized on more than one occasion already this year. Gressel said he understands the communication problems though, explaining that he dealt with similar issues dealing with Spanish-to-English translations under previous manager Tata Martino.
“The mood in the locker room is pretty good, I think,” said Gressel. “You can see that every time after training, we stay out there and do certain extra things. In the locker room, we have a little soccer-tennis net and we do that. We hang out and joke around. It's not toxic or anything.”