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Turned Up to XI: Projecting Atlanta United’s best starting XI after the MLS trade window

Fun with lineups

Argentina v Chile: Championship - Copa America Centenario Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Atlanta United were active during yesterday’s trade window, making four moves that included acquiring one USMNT veteran in Michael Parkhurst and trading another to NYCFC in Sean Johnson. When the dust settled Atlanta United came away with some good depth players and a whole lotta straight cash homie.

If you’re like me, when big offseason moments like this come around you can’t help but wonder what Tata Martino’s first starting XI is going to look like. Well this series will be for you. In this series we’re going to be building ATLUTD’s best starting XI based on the latest confirmed acquisitions as well as players solidly rumored to be heading to the Benz come 2017. We’ll update the projection as major offseason additions occur — a third DP, the Expansion Draft, the Super Draft, etc. Obviously, I’m going to get so so so so much wrong. But that’s half the fun of it.

First off, let’s talk tactics. If you haven’t already, you should read our deep dive into how Miguel Almirón will fit into Tata Martino’s system. [You should read that if for no other reason than Jason Longshore does a really great job of actually detailing Tata’s tactical default in plain english.]

Tata runs a 4-3-3 press that can be converted into something like a 4-2-3-1 when needed. The bare bones of the formation end up looking something like this:

So let’s break down the roles in this system:

  • A striker
  • Two wingers
  • Two playmaking midfielders
  • A holding midfielder
  • A basic MLS back four
  • A big dude that stops goals

Obviously, Atlanta hasn’t signed a player for all of these roles yet. Unless we want to play an attacking midfielder at just about every position. But there are rumors aplenty as well as a mock Expansion Draft to draw from. Based on all of that, here’s the best starting XI we have as of the Trade Window:

Now you might notice that very few of ATLUTD’s acquisitions from yesterday’s trade window are included in this eleven. That’s mostly because we don’t have a full, rumor-free starting XI yet. That’s mostly because the consensus leans heavily towards most of those players being added for squad depth and not for a starting role. So while it might frustrate you that there are some players on this XI that we haven’t even signed yet, I think I’m justified in picking them over a guy who will certainly play a role for ATLUTD just not a starting one.

Let’s break down what we do have. Despite the acquisitions of Brandon Vazquez and Romario Williams it doesn’t appear that anyone has upended Kenwyne Jones from the starting spot up top, nor does it appear that Tata will play two strikers. Tito Villalba will most likely play out wide to the right. Miguel Almiron has been given the number 10 and the label ‘playmaker’ so I’m assuming he’ll play centrally, rather than out wide to the left. Chris McCann is the anchor of the midfield. Michael Parkhurst starts at center back.

Those spots seemed locked in unless something drastically changes. And it could.

From the rumor mill I’ve drawn one DP, two defenders, and a certain USMNT goalkeeper. We’ve already reported that the Andres Guardado deal is said to be still on track according to Grant Wahl. Brad Guzan’s arrival seems all but imminent after Sean Johnson was traded to NYCFC. The surprises for many of you might come on the left side of the back four. Rather than inserting a left back and left center back drawn from the pool of MLS Free Agents, I’ve chosen to go with the rumored loanees Miguel Valenzuela and Maximiliano Pollachi out of Tata’s former club Newell’s Old Boys. They seem more than solidly linked to Atlanta and they are also the sorts of players that MLS fans always imagine could come here on the cheap and start immediately. After all, if they are average in Argentina shouldn’t they be starters in MLS? Not necessarily, and given how physical our league is they will surely require an adjustment period. But they seem worthy of including on this XI given how strong the links are. Honestly I’d include two MLS veterans but Atlanta United just isn’t linked to that many defenders yet. YOLO, I guess.

Finally, there are two players drawn from our mock Expansion Draft list: Harry Shipp and London Woodberry. Shipp seems like a solid first overall pick since he fits a definite need for Atlanta’s attack at left wing, but Eales and Boca could obviously go another direction. The same must be said for London Woodberry, who starts at right back. Given that the first two players selected in the mock were both protected by their clubs (Gonzalo Veron and Graham Zusi), who knows what Tuesday will bring.

Lastly here’s the rest of the bench: Alexander Tambakis (GK), Andrew Carleton (MF), Brandon Vazquez (FW), Kevin Kratz (MF), Harrison Heath (MF), Romario Williams (FW), Junior Burgos (MF), Jeffrey Otoo (MF), Chris Goslin (MF).

I’ll post an updated XI once the Expansion Draft is complete.

Until then, happy speculating!