Atlanta United’s first ever preseason training camp convenes on Monday in Bradenton, Florida at the IMG Academy. As the club embarks on their inaugural season, the technical staff has been hard at work assembling a roster to be competitive in MLS from the start. All indications are that the roster is not yet complete, so there will likely be shakeups between now and First Kick on March 5th.
However, to get a good understanding of how the roster is shaping up, let’s take a look at how a possible depth chart could look like if Tata Martino had one of those giant position boards like you see in all the American football movies. Here’s how we see the position depth playing out as the team arrives for training camp:
Jason: The potential Brad Guzan acquisition makes this a tricky situation. In a perfect world, Tambakis and Kapp get experience on loan while Kann backs up Guzan. Without Guzan in place, that could affect Tambakis’ loan opportunities.
Rob: Without the rumored arrival of Brad Guzan coming to fruition (yet), Alec Kann appears to have the inside track at the No. 1 spot. Worst case scenario seems to be Guzan joining in July. If that’s the case, Kann can hold the fort down until then with much of an issue. Tambakis could yo-yo between Atlanta and the USL affiliate depending on need of a back-up. Kapp is a sure bet to spend the season on loan somewhere.
Jason: Garza and Bloom should be the guys here. They fit Tata Martino’s system very well, as long as they can stay healthy. The depth is currently lacking, with Ambrose the only dedicated outside back. Loyd will see some time on the right, but he is a better option for depth in the middle.
Rob: Greg Garza is as much of a lock to start as anyone on the roster if he’s healthy. His international and club experience will be invaluable to a young team. At right back, the picture is a little less clear. Mark Bloom seems the natural fit, but don’t be surprised to see Zach Loyd get minutes either if another starting caliber center back is signed. Mikey Ambrose should get his fair share of minutes with the age across the back line.
Jason: Parkhurst’s experience is critical in how Atlanta’s defense performs in 2017. If the Leandro Gonzalez Pirez acquisition happens, he is an ideal partner to start. Loyd’s injury history is a concern, but he should see his fair share of playing time. Larentowicz is a solid option here when needed. The club is lucky to not have to rush Robinson into duty straight away. With his time away with the U20 national team, he will not always be available.
Rob: Michael Parkhurst will be the rock Atlanta United build around in the back. He seems to be a lock with his partner yet to be decided. As of now, Loyd has the edge on the other spot, but we expect an additional signing soon. Larentowicz will have a part to play in midfield and defense but he likely won’t be starting many matches if all goes to plan. Miles Robinson will start at the bottom like most draft picks, but expectations will be high from him to climb up the depth chart as his rookie season progresses.
Jason: As it stands today, a combination of McCann, Almiron, and Asad should be the starting trio. Larentowicz provides a more purely defensive option at the #6. Kratz and Heath can fill any of the central midfield roles. If Asad can regain his form from 2015, this could be a dangerous group for the opposition.
Rob: This position is the most difficult to project simply because we don’t know what formation Tata Martino will favor. Chris McCann is your main holding midfielder. Expect him in the lineup at whichever spot is the most defensive with Larentowicz being his cover.
Miguel Almiron will likely be the main attacking midfielder in some fashion. He’s not the prototypical No. 10 but he’ll float all around the field and act as a playmaker. Asad is another versatile player who could wind up on the wing or in the midfield. A wildcard in the mix is Kevin Kratz. We don’t know much about him as a player. If he manages to contribute, then Atlanta’s midfield is in very good shape.
Jason: If there is anywhere that I see the club adding the third Designated Player, I think it’s on the left wing. Peterson will be a good player for depth, he can cover both sides, but I think the club will be looking for more of an impact on the left. Villalba will have high expectations on the right. With Carleton due to spend quite a bit of time with the U17 national team, his contributions will likely be limited.
Rob: Versatility will play a big part on the wing. Players like Almiron and Asad can easily drift out there if necessary. As of now, Jacob Peterson has a good chance at playing time on the left wing with Hector Villalba a great bet to start on the right. This is all subject to change if another attacking player, possibly a third DP, is added. Andrew Carleton is very promising, but it’s probably best to exercise as much caution with him as possible in the opening stages of the season.
Jason: Lots of pressure on Kenwyne Jones to be a big goal scorer for this team, and to also be the fulcrum of the attack. Vazquez will spend quite a bit of time away with the U20’s. Williams and Otoo would provide a different option up top than Jones, but could also see time out on loan. Gressel was drafted to contribute in the midfield, but he could be forced to reprise his senior season in college playing as a #9.
Rob: Who will score the goals? Hopefully Kenwyne Jones is the answer to that question. He’s the main man in front of goal as the roster currently stands and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Vazquez seems the lock to be his back-up, but his availability could be affected by international duty. Behind him it gets murky with little-to-no MLS experience. Despite his designation as a midfielder, I believe Julian Gressel could fit a high pressing system very well as a striker if needed.