Starting and running a blog about a professional sports franchise that doesn’t play games is a pretty difficult task. We started DSS over a year ago and there’s still a little under eight months until the team plays their first match. When we first started, the team didn’t even have a name or a logo. Now they have all of that and even have seven players under contract and a whole Academy ready to begin play.
Through the months of trying to find subjects to write about to keep fresh and intriguing content coming your way, we’ve done a lot of speculating about which players we’d like to see Atlanta United sign. Most of it has been about which Designated Players we’d like to see the club sign, but what about the other guys?
There’s one player currently under contract with an MLS club that I think is being severely under-utilized and that I think Atlanta United should rescue from the abyss.
Jose Villarreal of the LA Galaxy was once a top prospect in MLS and even U.S. Soccer as a whole. A graduate from the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, Villarreal was signed as a Homegrown Player by the Galaxy in 2011 as an 18-year-old. Five years later, he’s dealt with many injury issues and has only appeared for the Galaxy 56 times, scoring five goals.
Being a young player on a star-studded club like the Galaxy, you’re bound to be buried on the depth chart if you don’t have immediate success. That’s exactly what happened to Villarreal. Any time he would get a chance, he’d be slowed by injuries.
At 22, he’s still with the Galaxy but is stuck with their reserve team in the USL. It hard to imagine that the talent that he showed early on in his career has suddenly vanished. During the U.S. Open Cup semifinals, the Galaxy decided to play a majority of their back-ups and younger players and Villarreal wasn’t even awarded a spot on the bench. There are obviously some variables that are keeping him away from the first team and something needs to change. A clear path to the first team doesn’t appear to be something that’s possible for him now, so a change of scenery seems the most likely of outcomes.
That’s where Atlanta United come in. Here you have an up-and-coming franchise looking to build a competitive roster. To do that in their first season in MLS, they are going to have to get lucky. That means they’ll have to find some bargains on the market.
Jose Villarreal is exactly the type of player they’d be wise to take a gamble on. It’s hard to envision him costing a team wanting to acquire him much in the way of assets. Possibly a draft pick or an international player slot or something minor like that. For that you’d be getting a young player who was once a top prospect and who possesses desirable qualities like outstanding technical ability and the dynamic playmaking abilities you look for in an attacker.
Obviously he’s not a perfect player. If he was, he’d be playing for the Galaxy no matter how many high-priced stars they have. Villarreal is very much a diamond in the rough candidate. His playing situation for his club has almost completely dissolved. It would be taking a chance to sign someone like him, but the risk is heavily outweighed by the potential reward he could offer if he finds his form and becomes the player he was supposed to be.
It’s inevitable that Atlanta United will need to take some risks with its first ever roster. There’s just no feasible way to build a team full of proven players in your first year under the current salary cap structure. The club will have to scout players who are being undervalued by their current teams in hopes they can bring them in and squeeze out their maximum potential.
If Atlanta take the chance on Villarreal and are able to get the very best out of him, they’ve acquired themselves a difference maker in MLS for very cheap. That seems like a no-brainer chance to take if they have the opportunity.
That’s who I’d love to see Atlanta United acquire. Make it happen.