The Sunday Post (Inverness)

The game Stateside has no Glass ceiling and is on the way up

- By Sean Hamilton

Stephen Glass is 4,000 miles from home.

But the former Aberdeen and Newcastle United star knows success has a way of bridging distances.

As an academy coach with MLS bighitters Atlanta United, the last few weeks have been a rollercoas­ter for Glass.

The first team have driven it – roaring to a first Eastern Conference title followed by the MLS’ showpiece occasion, the MLS Cup Final. They set themselves up for glory with a 3-0 win over New York Red Bulls in front of 70,000 rabid, black-red-and-gold-clad fans.

But despite being a 12-hour flight from his parents’ home in Dundee, Glass still had backing from mum, Ruby, and dad, Jim, that night in Atlanta’s sold-out Mercedez-benz Stadium.

“The Conference Final was incredible,” said Glass.

“I actually Facetimed my dad just before kick-off to show him the stadium and the fans.

“He doesn’t tend to stay up too late these days, and because of the noise I couldn’t hear what he was saying at the time, so the call ended and I just got on with watching the game.

“But later I found out from my mum that he had stayed up to watch the whole game on TV, which was nice, you know?

“That has been one of the really good things about being at this club, being able to share the success it has been enjoying with family back in Scotland.”

Glass (inset) only joined the Atlanta United academy set-up in August. But the 42-year-old has been immersed in US football for years, having first moved across the Atlantic in 2011. With the World Cup heading back to the States in eight years, Glass senses a determinat­ion among the game’s stakeholde­rs to produce an American team capable of mounting a serious challenge.

Now he hopes Atlanta United’s MLS success can help its academy turn out the calibre of player required to do it.

“There’s potentiall­y a huge talent pool,” he said.

“If the national team does well here it sparks everything – we’ve seen it on the female side.

“The women’s team won the World Cup and it exploded. Now there’s a focus on the men’s team for when the World Cup comes here in 2026.

“I think everybody is aiming for that – and I think there will be a real disappoint­ment if they don’t do something in the World Cup.

“There’s a real chance for young players to become a national hero. “Imagine if the World Cup was in Scotland in eight years’ time and you were a 16, 17, 18-year-old player, you’d be desperate to be part of that.

“In terms of Atlanta United, I’d say there’s a hope MLS success could help the academy side of things.

“It doesn’t always go hand-in-hand. There are some places that have great academies and maybe the first team isn’t quite so good, and vice versa.

“But, with Atlanta United being such a young club, the academy has enjoyed success already.

“We’ve got a really good staff in here, too – and it attracts players.

“I do think the MLS success makes us more attractive.

“And if we can get kids here to train, it’s the usual, we can use the facilities to sell the club to young players because they are first rate.

“In fact, the training ground is the best I’ve ever seen.”

Being spoiled for facilities isn’t an experience too many youth or academy coaches have in Scotland. But passion for football is something the Scots possess in abundance.

It’s something that takes years, if not generation­s, to properly distil within a given culture.

Yet Glass is loving life in the States’ fledgling – yet rapidly growing – football landscape, doing his bit to sow and tend the seeds that will, hopefully, develop into something truly formidable.

“Football is still a young sport here,” he said.

“Yes – it has been going for years now and it’s hugely popular. You can see that with the MLS attendance­s at this club. “The stadium has two set-ups – 40,000 and 70,000 – and whichever one they use, it is always full.

“But it’s still growing. There are still things that can be added into the game here – the kind of feeling people have for the game in Scotland is still being built. “Having that knowledge, having the game being part of your life, is always going to valuable, I think – and I’m excited to see where the game goes over here.”

 ??  ?? Atlanta United celebrate with the Easter Conference trophy after seeing off New York Red Bulls
Atlanta United celebrate with the Easter Conference trophy after seeing off New York Red Bulls
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