The Big Board is the lifeblood of building a team. You track your depth chart, your needs, and your targets. Let’s take a look at some possibilities for Atlanta United’s Big Board.
First, a little background...
The summer transfer window for MLS teams opens July 4 and runs through August 3. At the moment, it is unknown whether there will be an expansion draft after MLS Cup or not. In the past, teams have added a large portion of their inaugural rosters through that process.
In 2015, Orlando only signed Kaká in the summer window and loaned him to São Paulo FC through early December. New York City FC acquired five players in the summer window. David Villa signed a designated player contract and was loaned to Melbourne City of the A-League. Jeb Brovsky and Andrew Jacobson were acquired via trade and then loaned to Norwegian clubs. Kwame Watson-Siriboe (trade) and Josh Saunders (free agent) were signed and loaned to NASL clubs.
Atlanta is in a different situation with four players already signed prior to their first summer window. Alex Tambakis and Jeffrey Otoo are playing in the USL with Charleston this year, Junior Burgos is on loan to Tampa Bay of the NASL, and Andrew Carleton will split time between the US U17’s, Charleston, and the Atlanta United academy in order to fulfill the terms of his Homegrown Player contract.
What does the Atlanta United Big Board look like? We will be taking a look at some potential realistic targets for the club, grouped by position, to help prepare for the upcoming transfer window.
Both expansion clubs in 2015 went with a veteran, someone to push him, and a younger goalkeeper when they built their rosters. This is pretty typical and would be a good format to start from here.
Alex Tambakis is already under contract and would likely fill either the #2 or #3 spot. With his lack of experience and a difficult start to the 2017 season for Atlanta United on the road, a veteran goalkeeper would likely be preferred for the #1 spot.
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire: The 27 year old Lilburn native has been a mainstay for the Chicago Fire since 2010. New coach Veljko Paunović started the season with newcomer Matt Lampson in goal while Johnson was injured. Johnson has started the last four league games, with Lampson getting the US Open Cup game last week. We’ll see what happens during the rest of the season in Chicago, but the Fire could be willing to offload Johnson. His salary cap hit is approximately $250K, which is high but manageable.
Zac MacMath, Colorado Rapids: MacMath is in a tough spot in Colorado. The 24 year old started in Philadelphia and made over 100 appearances from 2011-2014. The Union front office kept looking for other goalkeepers though, and the drafting of Andre Blake made MacMath expendable. He went to Colorado on loan last season and was traded to the Rapids for good. He’s been a key cog in the Rapids’ rise to the top of the Western Conference this season, giving up less than a goal per game. However, the signing of Tim Howard again makes him expendable. His $140K cap hit, combined with his recent form and experience, makes him a very interesting possibility.
Cody Cropper, unattached: Cropper was born in Atlanta and moved to Minnesota when he was 12. He went to England when he was 17, first singing with Ipswich Town before moving to Southampton. He never made an appearance there and played last season with MK Dons in the Championship. The option on his contract was not renewed by the club and the 23 year old is now a free agent. He has been a consistent member of US youth national teams, last featuring with the U23’s in their playoff for the Olympics with Colombia in March.
William Yarbrough, León: The 27 year old is a veteran of LigaMX who grew up in Mexico to American parents who immigrated there. Currently with León, he has over 80 appearances with the club since joining them in 2012. He also has two caps with the USMNT, most recently in April 2015 against Mexico. Yarbrough has battled for playing time at León, and recently led them to the semifinals of the most recent Liguilla.
Guillermo Ochoa, Málaga: Mexican national team players have long been considered targets for Atlanta due to the large turnouts at the Georgia Dome for games. Ochoa is one of the most marketable Mexican national team players in the squad. He’s only 30 years old, but it feels like he has been part of the Mexican squad forever. His contract is up next summer and he is valued at around $3.5M. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of goalkeepers as Designated Players. However, if you are going to head in that direction, I don’t think you could do any better than Ochoa.
Boaz Myhill, West Brom: Best known for his 2003-2010 run with Hull City, Myhill was born in California to an American father and a Welsh mother. He grew up in England and later made 19 appearances for the Welsh national team, but he could count as an American for MLS roster purposes. He is very experienced with over 300 games in England in his career. His contract expires during the summer of 2017 and he is valued at just over $2M. With Darren Eales’ connections at West Brom, and Myhill’s lack of consistent playing time, he could be an interesting choice for Atlanta United. Reportedly, Aston Villa is interested in bringing Myhill back to the club where he started his career.
Other Domestic Options
Jimmy Maurer, New York Cosmos: The 27 year old Lawrenceville native has come into his own with the Cosmos in the NASL. He won a NASL championship as a backup in 2013 and as a starter in 2015. In between, he was named to the league’s Best XI in 2014. He played very well this spring with the Cosmos, allowing six goals in nine starts.
Cody Mizell, Charlotte Independence: With experience in the NASL, Iceland’s first division, and the USL, Mizell has gained a good bit of experience for a 24 year old. He is from Woodstock originally and spent three years with the powerhouse Clemson Tigers NCAA program before turning pro with the Atlanta Silverbacks in 2013.
Matt Pickens, Tampa Bay Rowdies: Pickens has over 150 games of experience in MLS with Chicago and Colorado, and over 50 more with Tampa Bay since joining the Rowdies in 2014. The 34 year old allowed less than a goal per game during the recent NASL Spring Season.
Zac MacMath and the Colorado Rapids are in quite a spot with the Tim Howard signing. If Atlanta was to make them the right offer, they might just take it. MacMath likely will not be satisfied as a back-up to Howard, especially not after the season he is having at the moment. Sean Johnson would also be a fine choice, but might cost more to acquire.
Jimmy Maurer is worth a look as well. He has proven that he is among the elite domestic goalkeepers outside MLS.
All of this is dependent upon getting the maximum value in terms of the transfer/trade and the player’s contract.