The dust has settled on the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft with Atlanta United adding four new players, all of which are defensive in nature. Three natural picks in the draft that appear to be remaining with the club are defenders Zach Loyd and Mikey Ambrose with goalkeeper Alec Kann rounding out the three survivors from the initial five picks.
Shortly after the draft concluded, Atlanta made a savvy move to acquire another defender in Mark Bloom by sending Clint Irwin back to Toronto and picking up some valuable general allocation money in the process.
The goal of this draft was clear for Atlanta United. Pick up as much defensive value as possible and that’s exactly what they did. What they’ve come away with is at least two starters for their back line in Loyd and Bloom and some solid depth in Ambrose and Kann.
The prized pick of this draft for the club from the way the technical staff speaks is Zach Loyd. Carlos Bocanegra and Darren Eales praised the 29-year-old’s versatility and leadership while reflecting on their additions Monday afternoon.
“What we like about Zach is that he's so versatile,” Bocanegra said in a post-Draft teleconference. “He's a competitor. He's a guy we've known for a while, he's been on our board for a while. We're quite excited that he can play pretty much anywhere across the back four."
Future acquisitions will determine whether or not Loyd will be a left back or a center back, both of which he has plenty of experience at. The way the roster is constructed now leaves us to imagine a center back partnership of Michael Parkhurst and Loyd. Together, the two combine for 15 years of MLS experience and 28 caps for the USMNT.
Both are not physically imposing defenders, but do fit Tata Martino’s style of technical play. They are good with the ball at their feet and can pick out a pass. Eales eluded to that being a plus when asked about a potential pairing of the two at the back.
"Michael was someone we were really excited to get in on the trade window day,” Eales said. “Someone who is a real leader with MLS experience and has that ability to play the ball out of the back."
After spending the majority of 2016 finding attacking players from all over the world, the last week has been dedicated to finally building the foundation for a defense. While all the big money is rightfully being spent in the attacking end of the field, the beginning of the MLS offseason has been about finding the right fits for the right price. In Loyd, Parkhurst, and Bloom they have themselves proven MLS veterans who are salary cap-friendly.
With rumors of a third attacking Designated Player on the way, you can expect that trend to continue on for the remainder of the offseason.
Only time will tell what the club’s completed back line will look like and how effective it will be. For now, they’ve gotten off to a good start in building a defensive base for the uber-talented and highly expensive attackers to rely upon.