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In front of the grill, Leandro González-Pírez is Atlanta United’s ‘asador’

‘We see each other early, and we start cooking six, seven hours. After, we [eat] dinner.’

Apr 20, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) reacts after a foul call against FC Dallas in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Apr 20, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) reacts after a foul call against FC Dallas in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Those who follow Atlanta United’s Argentine contingent on social media may have picked up on the regular gatherings at Leandro González-Pírez’s home for asado.

“We normally do it when Argentina is playing or when we meet each other in my house,” González-Pírez said after a recent training session. “This is a custom for Argentina. This is what we do. We see each other early, and we start cooking six, seven hours. After, we [eat] dinner.”

Photos and videos of the meals, featuring beef hoisted on a cross and slow-cooked over coals, have shown up in the Instagram stories of González-Pírez, Ezequiel Barco, Franco Escobar, Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez, Eric Remedi and Héctor “Tito” Villalba. Asado is both the grilled meat and the event, like the American idea of barbecue. (Of course, the exact definition of “barbecue” in this country is disputed by region, and some purists insist on calling such gatherings “cook-outs.”) While dinner is cooking and after the feast, everyone chats and plays table games.

González-Pírez said he controls the grill without much assistance: “No, only me. The guys, they come to eat only.” His guests do pitch in with the sides. These typically include salads and potatoes wrapped in foil and cooked in the coals for two hours.

While González-Pírez has taken on the role of Atlanta United’s unofficial asador, he is not plying some sort of exclusive trade.

“Anybody can do it,” he said. “You have to know how, but it’s good because in Argentina, normally we like meeting and seeing each other and making great times together.”

Asked if there are any secrets to his cooking, González-Pírez replied, “patience, only that.” This line drew a chuckle from gathered reporters, because the centerback is not known as the most patient player on the field. When he is not winning balls with hard challenges in Atlanta’s defensive half, he often is pushing forward to join the attack, emphatically disagreeing with a referee’s decision or mixing it up with an opponent.

González-Pírez finds his moments of zen in the kitchen and at the grill.

“I like cooking,” he said. “So this is a good therapy.”

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