Atlanta United added another proven veteran defender to its back line on Tuesday when the club confirmed the signing of fullback Tyrone Mears from the Seattle Sounders. The 33-year-old started 32 matches for the eventual MLS Cup champions and will look to bring some valuable leadership to a young expansion club.
With the addition of Mears, the brand new club have put together a surprisingly strong stable of defensive options in a short amount of time. When the MLS offseason began, Atlanta had no defensive players on their roster. Now with just 39 days until First Kick, the club have a very respectable group with the likes of Zach Loyd, Michael Parkhurst, Greg Garza, Mark Bloom, Jeff Larentowicz, and now Mears.
There’s also very strong rumors linking Atlanta with Estudiantes center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. If that signing comes off as many report it will, United’s defense appears as if it could be one of their biggest strengths heading into their inaugural season. That’s something no one was expecting as the offseason started.
What type of player is Tyrone Mears? Here’s how Sounder at Heart Managing Editor Dave Clark described Atlanta’s newest signing:
Tyrone Mears is a defender who enjoys getting forward frequently. His crosses lack a bit of direction, so he's best if he's doing short interplay at the corner of the box with another wide player. With him being forward so often and slowing down a bit it can lead to recovery issues that force a center back to be one-on-one with a speedy winger. Mears' on-ball defense is still quite strong.
It sounds like Atlanta are still getting quite a useful player to add to their lineup. So, why would the Seattle Sounders let him go? Dave gave us his thoughts on that as well:
Sounders FC had to continue to inject youth and reliability into their system. While Mears fit the second he was one of many players over 30. For Seattle to meet its goals of winning in the short and long term, President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey declined options on several talented players. Today, Lagerwey said that when they discovered Mears wanted to stay in MLS, Seattle helped find a spot where he wanted to be. Sounders FC will now have Brad Evans at right back, if healthy.
Seattle’s numbers game and commitment to youth appears to be Atlanta’s gain. For a club with such a young roster, adding a little veteran presence should be looked at as a positive. But, with Mark Bloom, a more-than-capable right back, already on the roster, what does it mean for the starting job?
Bloom starting from day one would’ve likely been acceptable by all at the club, but adding someone with Mears’ track record and experience should make him the odds-on favorite to walk out of the tunnel on March 5th in the starting XI. However, that’s just a hypothesis at this point. The ultimate decision will be in Tata Martino’s hands and he has just over a month to decide.