New to MLS, Martino heavily involved in Atlanta United's roster building

He comes in with no experience in MLS, but Atlanta United coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino has been schooling himself on the possibilities for Tuesday's Expansion Draft ahead of Atlanta's inaugural season in 2017.

The former Barcelona and Argentina coach has been involved during the run-up to the draft, team president Darren Eales said, rather than just drawing up a wish list of player qualities and asking United's front office to fill in the roster spots.

In fact, Eales said, Martino's studies began even before his hiring in late September to lead Atlanta into MLS alongside Minnesota United next season.

"I was really surprised how much Tata knows," Eales told reporters during a conference call on Monday. "I think we told you, when we did the recruitment, he'd done a lot of research on all the players in the league before he even started, before he even got the job with Atlanta. Our approach has been very much a collaborative effort, so between us together we've obviously been looking at the players that are unprotected, and we'll take the view between the group of us as to who we think are the best available.

"But clearly, Tata's a key part of that process."

Teams released their protected lists on Monday, but technical director Carlos Bocanegra said there would be no burning of midnight oil in preparation for the five-round draft -- down from 10 in past Expansion Drafts -- because he, Eales and director of soccer operations Paul McDonough had already done a lot of the heavy lifting.

"Yesterday, we were here quite late in the office," Bocanegra said. "It was fun, going through all the different scenarios. You know, there's a lot of good guys on the board. And then today, obviously, the phone starts ringing with various other solutions. So, yeah, we've got an idea in mind how we want to go, but we're still listening to other opportunities. But I'm not sure it's going to be an all-nighter, like you see in the movies or on TV."

And while clubs tend to protect their first-choice players from being taken, Eales -- while also saying that Atlanta might draft for future trades -- said there could be a starter in this year's pool.

"I think we've been surprised, pleasantly surprised, by the number of quality players that are out there at a variety of clubs," Eales said. "So we're pretty excited."

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