ATLANTA – Seated at a massive round table in Atlanta United's draft room, Gerardo "Tata" Martino quietly scribbled notes and crossed off names as 10 players came off the board during Tuesday's MLS Expansion Draft.
United took Montreal Impact Donny Toia, FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd, Toronto FC goalkeeper Clint Irwin, Orlando City defender Mikey Ambrose and Sporting KC goalkeeper Alec Kann with their five picks. They traded Toia and Irwin following the draft. And while Martino took a backseat publicly, he wielded plenty of influence on the decisions and trades the club executed as Atlanta continue to build their roster.
"All the things we do here are collaborative. We're trying to do what's best for the club and give Tata the best chance to win on the field," Atlanta United technical director, Carlos Bocanegra, said on the club's post-draft conference call.
"We've been chatting with him the whole way through in terms of [how players] fit and how they can be part of Atlanta United and Tata's team," club president, Darren Eales added. "We couldn't be more pleased with the picks that we got and the value that we think we got out of it."
Atlanta were active after the draft as well. They traded defender and overall No. 1 pick Toia to Orlando City for the Lions' natural first-round pick (eighth overall) in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and sent Irwin back to Toronto FC – in exchange for Reds defender Mark Bloom – after taking the MLS Cup finalist in the third round.
It was a busy three days for Atlanta after they made news on Sunday during a brief trade window then followed that up with another bumper day of acquisitions on Tuesday.
"It's funny because you live and breathe it for that intense 48 hours but you have to reflect that this is just one small part of the whole building process," Eales said. "It's easy to get sucked in at the time when you're doing it."
And while the front office had done their homework in advance of the draft, reviewing video and plotting out possibilities, the pace on Tuesday – with the phone constantly ringing – was anything but relaxed.
"It was an interesting experience because you don't have very long between the list of unprotected and the draft itself. There's a lot of moving parts," Eales said. "There's other clubs that are interested in players and are proposing trades.
"We've just been as organized as we could before hard and then just tried to move as best we could. Overall, this will be something that's going to be one piece of the jigsaw puzzle when we kick off in March 2017."
Ongoing players rumors continue to dominate Atlanta United's news, including a link to Paraguay international Oscar Romero, and the front office expects to continue wheeling and dealing while taking advantage of the remaining player acquisition methods still left in the process as they build the club's first-ever squad.
"Our plan is to get as many [players] as we can in for preseason training camp," Eales said. "There's plenty of ways and mechanisms for us to build a team. Today was another important step in that process."