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Atlanta United Big Board: Central Midfielders

Mexico v Panama: Semifinals - 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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.

Center Backs
Outside Backs

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.intro

Central Midfielders

Both Orlando and New York City placed a heavy emphasis on the center of the midfield with their roster construction, and I would assume that Atlanta United will do the same.

Both teams looked at mixing mostly veteran players and stars with some up and coming young talent. One major difference that Atlanta might look to exploit is the opportunities to grab talent from within MLS, many central midfielders are in the final year of the contract and could be available for the right deal.

MLS Options

Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City: His contract is up at the end of this season, and Feilhaber is “focused on playing right now” instead of what is next. The 31 year old has played some of the best soccer in his career in Kansas City since joining them in 2013, scoring 23 goals and notching 30 assists in 128 appearances. While a player of his stature is not often available within the league, his contract status should be monitored for any opportunities.

Mix Diskerud, New York City FC: Diskerud is a victim of the glut of central midfielders NYCFC has added since their launch. Rumors have been flying recently about him being on the way out of the Bronx. The 25 year old is coming off of a rough first season in the league and has largely been on the outside looking in recent weeks. NYCFC could be in the mood to cut their losses, Atlanta should see what their asking price is.

Warren Creavalle, Philadelphia Union: The 25 year old from Acworth has been fighting for playing time in his five year MLS career with Houston, Toronto, and now Philadelphia. With 11 starts in 14 games this season, he is showing what he can do in his contract year. He is versatile, although I feel his best spot is as a defensive midfielder but he can also play in a more attacking central role or at right back.

Dillon Powers, Colorado Rapids: This is a stretch, but Powers is one of the better up and coming American central midfielders in the game right now. His ultimate destination is likely Europe, he was on trial at Reading last offseason. However, we all know that money talks. The chance to run the show in the middle of the park in Atlanta, while being paid handsomely to do so, could be tempting.

Collin Fernandez, Chicago Fire: The Homegrown product from the Fire’s academy has received limited playing time in his two years in MLS. He is now 19 years old and in the final year of his contract. Scouts have been very high on Fernandez and feel that he has not received a real chances in Chicago. He has featured for US youth national teams up to the U20 level. As a central midfielder who can score goals, he is worth watching.

Matt Polster, Chicago Fire: Polster plays predominantly as a holding midfielder and had a strong rookie season in 2015. The 23 year old has not been as important to new Fire boss Veljko Paunovic and could be allowed to leave at the end of his contract. He was part of the USMNT January camp and also featured for the U23’s in the last year. His passing and defense have earned praise and could be important building blocks for a new team.

Jared Jeffrey, DC United: Jeffrey is a player that I have felt deserved more time than he has received during his time at DC United. He is technical, but also scrappy, and could be a force in the middle of the park for a team. The 26 year old went over to Europe at 18, first with Club Brugge then FSV Mainz where he featured for their reserves. He has been with DC United since the summer of 2013, but never been a regular.

Luke Mulholland, Real Salt Lake: He was largely unknown before his NASL time with Tampa Bay from 2012-2013 where he scored 15 times in over 50 appearances. Mulholland is a central midfielder who can get forward and find himself in good positions. He has been with Real Salt Lake since 2014, and while he has not always been a starter, he has been a solid contributor. Mulholland was born in England, but has a US green card.

Calum Mallace, Montreal Impact: Born in Scotland but growing up in Minnesota, Mallace has been with the Montreal Impact since they joined MLS in 2012. He is a player who can hit a diagonal ball with precision, but he can also be a gritty defender. He has never truly been a first choice option in Montreal and could need a change of scenery to become a star.

Steve Neumann, New England Revolution: Neumann is in his third season with the Revolution and has not seen the field in 2016. His playing time has steadily declined during his stay with New England, largely due to a logjam at his preferred position of attacking central midfield. He was a star at Georgetown in college and is known as a playmaker who can score goals. The 24 year old has limited experience, but a lot of upside.

Collen Warner, Houston Dynamo: Warner is a veteran box-to-box midfielder with over 100 games started in his eight year MLS career with Real Salt Lake, Montreal, Toronto, and now Houston. He was brought to the Dynamo as cover for Ricardo Clark and has played in seven games in 2016.

Collin Martin, DC United: Signed as a Homegrown Player in 2013, Martin has not been able to crack the DC United lineup on a regular basis. He has spent more time on loan to the Richmond Kickers than with the first team. He previously featured for the US youth national teams, through the U20’s. He is an attacking midfielder who led Wake Forest in assists as a freshman in 2012.

Leo Fernandes, Philadelphia Union: Loaned to the New York Cosmos in 2015, Fernandes won a NASL championship and was named the Young Players of the Year. He has been used primarily off the bench in Philadelphia this season, only starting twice in nine games. He has also spent some time with Union affiliate Bethlehem Steel this season. Only 24 years old, he is another young attacking midfielder stuck behind veterans on the depth chart. His eight goals and three assists with New York in 2015 show his promise.

Walter Restrepo, Philadelphia Union: Restrepo was Fernandes’ teammate with the Cosmos last season, and a NASL standout with Ft. Lauderdale and San Antonio before that. He is in his first season with Philadelphia, but he has played more with Bethlehem Steel this year. He played professionally in Colombia prior to joining Ft. Lauderdale, also representing Colombia at the U17 level. With good speed and strong 1v1 skills, Restrepo could be a solid option on the wing but he can also play centrally.

Americans Abroad

Cole Grossman, Stabaek IF: Grossman has played more in Norway in two seasons than he did in four years in MLS with Columbus and Real Salt Lake. He is 27 years old now and his contract is up in December. Bob Bradley brought him to Stabaek in 2015. As a central midfielder who can play in a holding role, Grossman has the ability to score some goals and make intelligent runs forward.

International Players

Andres Guardado, PSV: We have covered this one since the news broke months ago about the possibility of Guardado signing with Atlanta as their marquee player.

Adryan, Flamengo: This has been another rumor out there recently. Nothing came of Nantes purchasing his contract so he is currently back with Flamengo in Brazil.

Bruno Soriano, Villarreal: This one popped up last night and there are a lot of issues with the rumor that is out there. Mainly, the rumored transfer fee is 16 million Euros, which would double the highest fee MLS has ever paid. Transfermarkt values Soriano at 8 million Euros, so the rumored fee makes no sense. Soriano has spent his entire career with Villarreal and is 32 years old. He might be ready for a change, but it would be a steep price for a defensive midfielder that is not well known.

Rafael Baca, Cruz Azul: If the front office is looking for an international defensive midfielder, Baca would be a more cost effective option. He is represented by the Wasserman Media Group, who represents many players in MLS. The 26 year old joined Cruz Azul from the San Jose Earthquakes in 2014 and has been a regular rotation player. He played over 80 games for San Jose from 2011-2013. He is known as a tenacious defensive midfield with good passing skills.

Pedro Azogue, Oriente Petrolero: The 21 year old defensive midfielder from Bolivia was recently part of the Copa America Centenario. He has experience in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana with Oriente Petrolero. With a value around $500K, he could develop into quite an asset.

Christian Noboa, FK Rostov: Noboa is one of the key players for Ecuador and starred in the recent Copa America Centenario. He is entering the last year of his contract with FK Rostov in Russia and has a Transfermarkt value of nearly $7M. If Rostov feels like it is ready to part with the 31 year old central midfielder, he could be available for a deal.

Alvaro Gonzalez, Lazio: Another veteran from South America, Gonzalez is entering his final year of his contract with Lazio. He has previously spent time in Mexico and Argentina. His value is under $2.5M and could be had for a deal. He is a versatile player who can play in the middle of midfield or on the right side as a midfielder or right back.

Alejandro Guerra, Atlético Nacional: Guerra led Venezuela in this summer’s Copa America Centenario. He is an attacking central midfielder who scored six goals in twelve apperances with Nacional so far in 2016. He plays a deeper role with Venezuela, but has 58 caps for his national team. With his value under $1M, he might be a solid cog to build around in Atlanta’s midfield.

Other Domestic Options

Danny Szetela, New York Cosmos: Once one of American soccer’s young talents, Szetela has rebuilt his career with the Cosmos and is worthy of a look. His contract in New York is up at the end of the season and he is only 29 years old.


I’m definitely a subscriber to building a team through the spine. The most important piece of that is the central midfield. If there was ever a position to heavily invest in, it is this one.

Without a manager or a sense of what style/formation we will see, it is a little difficult to predict how many CM’s we see on the roster.

Guardado is a no brainer on many levels if you can get him at a price you want. He will be a leader on the field, he is playing at a high level, he will sell tickets and jerseys, and he will make you important to the huge Mexican population around Atlanta. Do what it takes to get him.

If for some reason it falls apart with Guardado, Noboa would be a nice Plan B.

There are plenty of options within MLS for trades here as well, which could be useful for depth. The Mix Diskerud situation is worth watching this summer, as is Benny Feilhaber’s situation after the season. The others that jump out to me as nice targets are Creavalle, Jeffrey, Mallace and Fernandes. I would also bring in Szetela for a look after the NASL season.

Rafael Baca would be a strong defensive midfield option who is familiar with the league, but also has strong experience in Mexico with Cruz Azul. Azogue from Bolivia could be an option at defensive midfield who could grow with the team.

The signings in central midfield will say a lot about the success we will see for Atlanta United in 2017.