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.
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.
Orlando thought ahead with both of their primary outside backs, Luke Boden and Rafael Ramos. Both were brought into their USL Pro team in 2014 ahead of the launch of the MLS side in 2015. Boden had been with Orlando for a few years in USL and Ramos joined for the second half of the 2014 season.
New York’s defense was a bit of a mess all season, and outside back was no exception. They did discover RJ Allen in mid-season, who had been out of the game for a year. He has now become a mainstay at right back and was named player of the month for the team last month.
Chris Klute, Portland Timbers: Klute has not been the same since Oscar Pareja left Colorado. He has benefited from coaches who challenge him, guys like Ricardo Montoya with the Silverbacks Reserves, Eric Wynalda with the Silverbacks first team, and then Pareja. His progress has stagnated a bit, but it can be recovered. He has been in the mix for playing time in Portland, but has not seemed to gel with the rest of the team. He can be a dynamic outside back who can play either side, get forward and get involved in the attack, and defend intelligently 1v1. He is also only 26 years old and has many more games in him.
Chris Duvall, New York Red Bulls: Klute’s former teammate with the Silverbacks Reserves, Duvall is best suited to play right back in MLS. He has been getting time at center back as well. The Concorde Fire product starred at Wake Forest before joining the Red Bulls in 2014. He has recovered from a leg injury that ended his 2015 season in July. Since Duvall has established himself well with the Red Bulls, he might be a more difficult player to acquire.
Jordan McCrary, New England Revolution: Another Concorde Fire product, McCrary is in his rookie season with New England and has not yet cracked the lineup. He started all 86 matches in his career at the University of North Carolina. He played with US youth national teams at the U15, U17, and U18 levels. He is right footed, but can play on either side of the backline. His athleticism got him noticed at the recent MLS Combine, registering the fourth-best vertical jump.
Corey Ashe, Columbus Crew: In 10 years in MLS, Ashe has played in over 200 games for Houston, Orlando, and Columbus. The 30 year old still has good speed and is a strong attacker when he gets forward. His contract is up at the end of the season and he has not been a consistent fixture for the Crew this season.
Ashtone Morgan, Toronto FC: Justin Morrow displaced Morgan from the lineup and he has been a backup option since 2014. He is 25 years old and a product of the Toronto FC academy. He also has 13 appearances with the Canadian national team. He is a player who can get forward and set up goals, as shown with both club and country. His contract is also up at the end of the season.
Kevin Alston, Orlando City: Alston played nearly 150 games for New England, but his contract was not renewed after last season. Orlando picked him up and he has been part of their mix, but not a regular fixture in the lineup. With their young talent coming through, specifically right back Tyler Turner, Alston should be available. His speed is his greatest asset. He can play on both sides of the backline, is a good teammate, and gets involved in community activities. He checks all of the boxes for a new team starting out.
Sheanon Williams, Houston Dynamo: Williams was a mainstay with the Philadelphia Union from 2010-2015, playing in nearly 150 games for the club. He was traded to Houston last July and has only played in six games so far this season. He is primarily a right back, but can play anywhere on the backline. He is also another former member of the US youth national teams, participating in the U17 and U20 World Cups. With all of his experience, Williams is still only 26 years old. His contract is also up at the end of the year.
Shaquell Moore, Real Oviedo B: The 19 year old from Powder Springs surprised everyone when he signed with Huracan Valencia in the summer of 2015. He left when he was not getting paid, signing with Real Oviedo’s B team in January of this year. He has played seven games for the club, but it appears that his contract is up at the end of this month. He has been part of the US youth national team setup, playing for the U20, U18, and U17 teams in his career.
Jose Francisco Torres, Tigres: Torres is a name you’re likely familiar with. He was a fixture with the U.S. national team under Bob Bradley and has since seen his stock plummet under Jurgen Klinsmann. Even though we haven’t seen him on the international level in a while, he’s still a reliable player for Tigres in Liga MX. Torres is very much a utility player who is able to play left back or in the midfield. It’s important to have versatility in a salary cap league. Having a player who can play multiple positions can save you money. Torres is still just 28 years old and could use a change of scenery in hopes that maybe it could resurrect his national team career.
Maxwell, PSG: It’s highly unlikely an expansion side will dip into the European/South American markets for a full back. That’s just not a wise investment for a club assembling their first ever roster. In fact, it’s rare to see any full backs with European experience in MLS. Usually it’s limited to young prospects coming over to get playing time. However, if there’s one European option that could make sense it’s PSG’s veteran left back, Maxwell. The consummate professional just signed a one-year extension with PSG and could be signed to a pre-contract in January. His age and track record make him a logical candidate to end his career in MLS.
Other Domestic Options
Hunter Freeman, New York Cosmos: Freeman is 31 years old and has won two NASL championships during his time with the Cosmos. Before that, he spent time in MLS with Colorado, New York Red Bulls, Toronto, and Houston. He also spent time with IK Start in Norway. He is a solid veteran who primarily plays on the right side, but can also slide over to the left if needed. His contract with the Cosmos is up at the end of this season.
Gabriel Farfan, New York Cosmos: The 28 year old is in his first season with the Cosmos, on loan from Mexican club Chiapas FC. He previously played for Philadelphia and Chivas USA in MLS. In addition to playing left back, Farfan has also seen time on the left side of midfield and as a defensive midfielder.
Greg Cochrane, San Antonio FC: Cochrane is in his first season in the USL with San Antonio. He spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Fire after his first pro season with the LA Galaxy. The 25 year old played in nearly 30 games in his MLS career, the time as a consistent starter in San Antonio should help his development.
Bilal Duckett, Charlotte Indpendence: Duckett is a well traveled, versatile 27 year old right back. He has been in MLS before, with Vancouver and New England, but received limited playing time at each stop. He is in his second season with the Charlotte Independence of the USL. In high school, he led McIntosh to a Georgia state championship in 2007.
Tyler Polak, FC Cincinnati: Once a member of the Generation adidas program, Polak spent two seasons with the New England Revolution before being released. After time with Minnesota United, Polak moved to new USL club FC Cincinnati this season and is getting the most playing time in his career. The 24 year old was part of the US squad at the U17 World Cup in 2009 and also played at the U20 level.
Ben Sweat, Tampa Bay Rowdies: Sweat has been a regular with the Rowdies since 2015 at left back. Prior to that, he spent a year with the Columbus Crew but did not see the field in a MLS match. He spent time training in Europe during the summers while at the University of South Florida.
Looking at the potential depth at outside back, Atlanta United will have quite a few different directions to ponder. With lots of options within the league, this might be a position to grab a player via trade. Obviously, I’m a little biased towards Klute and Duvall, but I have always liked Corey Ashe and Sheanon Williams as well.
Shaquell Moore has an intriguing situation and I’d love to see him come back to the US to get consistent playing time.
There’s also quite a few options in the lower divisions to look at for depth and potential starters. Hunter Freeman’s experience could be a great fit for a young expansion team.