The construction of Atlanta United's roster is underway. Two players have already joined the expansion side and more will follow within the next months on through to the new year. When deciding who will join Alex Tambakis and Junior Burgos on the roster, team president Darren Eales will have several different types of players to look at.
The more common signing and/or acquisitions we'll see are role players. Guys who fill up a roster and play their part throughout the season with little to no fanfare. These roster moves are usually met with vague interest. What gets supporters really excited are Designated Player signing. The players that will cost the most money and will hopefully be the most productive on the field.
When it comes time to make their decision on who to sign for these few important spots, Eales says that he's not looking for big name players who will draw attention to the club. Instead he's looking for players who will perform the best on the field.
"We want to have a competitive team," Eales told FourFourTwo. " ... We want to use our DP spots to have the most effective players we can. I'm not as focused on getting someone because it's good for marketing, a name player, but I am focused on getting a player who is effective for us in terms of helping us win on the pitch. That is the lens we are looking through. We are trying to get the best talent at each spot."
It's understandable for supporters of a brand new team to crave a big name player. Someone who they know and can rally behind, but most of the time signing players like that just isn't feasible or smart. The big names that have come to MLS over the years have been severely hit-or-miss. Players like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, etc. are all well known to the average soccer fan, but just don't have the right mentality for coming to MLS and becoming a productive on-field contributor. Sure, they sell a lot of kits and put butts in the seats. However, when it's all said and done people only care about what's happening on the field.
A player like Mauro Diaz has changed the way MLS front offices think about their Designated Player decisions. The dream is to find a young, talented player who can be one of your club's top contributors. In turn, once his contract winds down or other teams come calling, they can then sell him off for top dollar.
Don't be surprised to see Atlanta United go this route and sign one or two players you've probably never heard of to DP contracts. In the end, it's not important if you know their names when they are announced, it's if they can get the job done on the field once the matches start.