(Atlanta United Website)
Just 15 months after hiring Seattle's top assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda to be its fourth manager in club history, Atlanta United has today brought in another vital piece from Seattle as they have hired Garth Lagerwey to be the club's next President and CEO. Lagerwey leaves Seattle just six days after being voted to be retained as its general manager and president. A name that Atlanta fans have been asking for ever since former president Darren Eales left for Newcastle United, this move comes at a perfect time as the MLS offseason begins to take off.
Lagerwey has been one of the league's top executives since he was hired as Real Salt Lake's general manager in 2007. In his time in Salt Lake City, the club made it to 2 MLS finals (2009 win, 2013 loss) and a CONCACAF Champions League final (2010 loss). Lagerwey then joined Seattle in 2015, turning the Sounders into consistent juggernauts with 2 MLS Cups (2016, 2019), 4 MLS Cup appearances (2016-17, 2019-20), and a CONCACAF Champions League win in this past season. Seattle will be the first MLS team to compete in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2023.
Lagerwey has done all that he's wanted to accomplish at his past two stops, and now he's chosen to enter a new challenge in Atlanta. So why Atlanta? This job seems to be a tough one as the league's highest paid roster failed to make the playoffs in 2022. With a roster full of high-paid disappointments still under contract or returning from loan assignments, a keeper returning from a season-ending leg injury at his age 38 season, question marks if their franchise striker is still in the club's future plans, star center back mulling a long-term contract extension, there's a lot that can continue to go south for the club. Lagerwey must have received a significant pay increase to make the switch from Seattle to Atlanta. In his new role, he will have a lot of familiarity with Gonzalo Pineda to create the best roster possible for Atlanta to field in 2023. His first decision looks to be signing league veteran Derek Etienne Jr.. Etienne, the 25 year old winger who just came off a career 9 goal/6 assist season in Columbus, has been rumored to be visiting Atlanta this week and a leaked YouTube video hints at the move being all but officially announced.
A lot of question marks remain for this offseason, but leadership within the club has just taken a huge step in the right direction heading into it. We'll have to see what vision Lagerwey has in the coming months. Until then, enjoy the holidays and World Cup!