Carlos Bocanegra, One-on-One: On France, USMNT failure and the phenomenon in Atlanta
FFT: Atlanta United made a significant investment in the on-field product. Does attendance, with a league-record 48,200 average, and the success on the field justify the expense?
CB: I don't know if it justifies it. In-house, internally, we're pleased. We know we made investments, but I also think we made wise investments, that most of our assets have future resale value. We went at it that way.
We looked at it a little bit differently, but that's why we had to go do our homework on the road, meet with the player, the agents, getting the whole backstory from their social media. What type of life do they live? What kind of character do they have? Are they going to fit into our locker room? Are they going to be a pain in the butt? What are they going to be like on the field?
All of these things go into ‘do we go and make an investment in this player,’ because that's a big check to write for the owner [Arthur Blank]. We've got to be able to answer the questions on our due diligence. That's how you justify it internally.
FFT: How long do you expect to keep players like Hector Villalba, Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron? There's going to be interest in these guys in Europe and elsewhere.
CB: Yeah, there's been interest in quite a few of our players. It's flattering that people like your players. And that's soccer, right? It's a global market. We'll take each individual situation as it comes, but it's very flattering overall that people are coming to look at our players. That means they're doing a good job on the field.
FFT: Can you keep this group together for a few years?
CB: Like I said, we're going to take every situation that comes up. We'll look at it, we'll evaluate it, we'll see what's going on in the team, we'll see what we have in the pipeline. It's not just all of a sudden someone comes in, they want to buy him, great. There's a lot more that goes into it than that.
The guys are good, and they enjoy Atlanta, which is great. We know we're not going to be able to hold onto them forever, which is OK. We would like to be able to help push guys along, but we also want to be competitive here, which is first and foremost. So we need to worry about our team and winning, first and foremost.
FFT: Do you expect to purchase or extend the loan deals with Yamil Asad and Greg Garza?
CB: That's a good question. Now's the time that we have all these conversations. Options being picked up, returned, exercising all these fun things. These are decisions we're making over the next few weeks, and we're actually meeting on those the next few days to get a little bit more in-depth to it.
FFT: What's missing from the group? What do you need to add?
CB: We'd like to have a little bit more depth. I think our team did very well this year with when a guy went down, somebody else stepped up and went in. It's always nice to have a little bit more competition at each spot around the field, but that's what you can build up over time.
There's probably one or two pieces we'd like to add that I'm not going to speak about, because we've got this silly discovery rule, and I don't want people trying to block our positions and needs, so to speak, with players they might think we're going after. But, look, we're very pleased with the group. There's one or two positions we can try to improve upon, and create a depth and challenge at each of these spots. That for us what would be ideal, and we'll be able to do that over time.
More big interviews
FFT: Are you concerned that Martino could leave for a national team job, perhaps with Chile? He's been mentioned among possibilities for the U.S. post, too.
CB: It's a good question. It's the same with our players. When you have a coach that's come in, and he's done a good job, there's going to be interest in him. People have liked what he's done. Again, we're going to address all those things as they come along — if they come along — but for us, there's no real sense worrying about it until, if a situation arises with players, coaches, any staff. Because this is soccer, the global game. You've got to deal with it.
FFT: Your name also has been bandied about as a potential technical director for U.S. Soccer. Your thoughts?
CB: It's flattering. For me, it’s been excellent here, to be part of this club. I've been able to learn, grow, expand my horizons. You get to work in a high-performance environment everyday. It's excellent. When you can't play anymore, and you get to stay involved at this level and help make decisions, be influential in the direction of the club, the direction of the sport in the country.
You know, it's been real interesting for me to get more involved in the academy. That was great to be able to start that up a year out before we even started playing. It's been real interesting to watch that grow and bring it along, but look, it's just flattering, all these things. I think it shows when a team does well and a franchise does well, people's names get tossed around and, I guess, the spotlight shines on you a little bit. So that's always nice.