Well, Atlanta United's inaugural season is over. The best thing to do now is to look forward to 2018. Personally, I can't wait to see what happens this offseason. Not only is it the first chance for the front office to see where they're at, but it's also the first one where Tata Martino can have a say on all player personnel. Remember, by the time he was hired last year, Atlanta had already signed eight players.
The biggest thing Atlanta lacked during the last couple months of the season was depth. Having to rely on the same collection of players over and over again seemed to take its toll towards the end of the "8 matches in 23 days" stretch and ultimately the playoffs, as we saw key players like Miguel Almiron and Greg Garza go down with injuries and no natural replacements for them.
Tough decisions will have to be made with player personnel in order to bring in talent that's better, cheaper and younger. So, who exactly could be at risk? Let's take a look.
2017 Stats: 7 goals and 13 assists in 32 appearances
Base Salary: $150,000
Yamil Asad was one of the biggest surprises on the team in terms of productivity. His thirteen assists were good enough for 8th in MLS, he's still quite young, and he was paid a very practical wage. However, if Atlanta were to sign Asad permanently, he would almost certainly demand a higher salary since Velez paid for a significant part of his wages in 2017. The question Atlanta's front office will have to answer is whether or not his productivity is worth the pay increase and a likely use of total allocation money(TAM).
If he leaves: Andrew Carleton, Julian Gressel, Lagos Kunga and Brandon Vazquez are all viable options to start. Not all hope is lost.
2017 Stats: 2 goals, 5 assists, 8 clean sheets in 25 appearances
2017 Base Salary: $150,000
Greg Garza was one of the best left backs in MLS when healthy. He fits Martino's system incredibly well when contributing to attacks, and it's hard to find quality fullbacks in this league. Atlanta signing him to a permanent deal will come down to two things: 1. Garza has missed matches due to injury almost everywhere he's been. Are they willing to look past that if it means he'll continue to perform well when out on the pitch? 2. Tijuana are having trouble paying their players. It'll be very interesting to see what kind of impact that'll have on transfer negotiations and whether or not Tijuana will be happy to lower fee demands depending on how desperate they actually are.
Garza has the same issue as Asad in terms of salary demands. Atlanta will have to pay him more since Tijuana is currently paying for a portion of his wages. Is it worth it?
If he leaves: Either Martino sees Chris McCann as a consistent starter and he's convinced to take a pay cut(we'll talk about this later) or Atlanta sees what's available in the transfer market.
2017 Stats: 2 goals, 10 clean sheets in 20 appearances
2017 Base Salary: $53,004
Most Improved Player of the season goes to Anton Walkes. He was very solid during the last stretch of matches and really embraced the chance to play right back for the first time in his professional career. It would be great to keep him, but the writing could be on the wall with the signing of center back/right back hybrid Franco Escobar.
If he leaves: Escobar is supposedly here to rescue us.
2017 Stats: 1 goal in 11 appearances with D.C. United and Atlanta United
2017 Base Salary: $260,000
Boswell only made one appearance for the Five Stripes, and that likely wouldn't have happened had Michael Parkhurst not gotten injured late against Toronto. His wages are absurd for someone who only made 11 appearances all season, and makes one wonder what D.C. United was thinking when they agreed to it. That also makes me think that his contract is expiring at the end of the season, and that's why Atlanta picked it up. It's still puzzling why they did so since Boswell barely contributed, but it was a low risk transaction. Still, don't expect to see him back next season.
If he leaves: Literally nothing changes.
2017 Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, infinite work ethic, 1 indirect tattoo in 33 appearances
2017 Base Salary: $175,008
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING, HARIS?!?! HOW IS THIS EVEN BEING CONSIDERED?". Well, the odds that Larentowicz's contract is longer than a year is very low. As well as he played last season(and he played really well), Atlanta does have to consider the future. Are there other gifted holding mids on the market that are younger and cheaper? If Larentowicz does stay, is it to mentor Chris Goslin for another season? This is a toss-up. A convincing argument can be made either way.
If he leaves: Transfer market options or fast-track a young Goslin.
2017 Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, 4 clean sheets in 20 appearances
2017 Base Salary: $183,756
Responsible for the most well known assist in Atlanta United history, but such a liability on defense and one backpass too many led to Walkes taking over the starting job at right back. There isn't much that Mears can contribute to this club at his age and with his wage demands.
If he leaves: We'll be alright.
2017 Stats: 12 clean sheets in 33 appearances
2017 Base Salary: $325,008
This is another peculiar name to include considering how involved he was with the club, but Parkhurst will be 34 by the time the 2018 season begins and demands a pretty high wage. He was more than likely signed to a one-year contract, so it's certainly possible to see him re-sign with a pay cut.
If he leaves: Take a look at the transfer market or potentially play Escobar at center back.
2017 Stats: 2 goals in 17 appearances
2017 Base Salary: $390,000
Jones is paid more than seven of the usual starters. That's kind of unacceptable. If he were contributing off the bench, then perhaps a simple pay cut is all it would take to keep him around. However, he just doesn't fit Atlanta's style of play whatsoever. Jones also unfollowed Dirty South Soccer on Twitter, and we're very sad. Perhaps it's because we make predictions like this.
If he leaves: We'll be alright.
2017 Stats: 2 assists in 23 appearances
2017 Base Salary: $540,000
Although McCann contributed much more than Jones did, especially late in the season when Garza went down with an injury, he is still wildly overpaid. However, with extensive social media research, it appears that McCann and his family bought a house. Call me crazy, but that doesn't sound like something a player does unless he knows they're staying for a while. Now with that being said, the Atlanta United front office isn't a fool. McCann had to have been bought down.
If he leaves: Assuming Garza returns, McCann's absence isn't major. If neither return, George Bello is our lord and savior(Okay, maybe not next season, but the kid is really good).
What do you all think? Let us know in the comments.