Last week on the ATLSoccer chat, someone asked me who the most indispensable player was for Atlanta United. FourFourTwo took at a look at this same question across the league, and we had a difference of opinion on Atlanta’s choice. Paul Tenorio went with Miguel Almirón, I chose Michael Parkhurst.
Almirón will likely be the MVP of this squad in 2017. So far in two preseason games, he has demonstrated all of the quality that led to his Designated Player signing and reports that major European clubs were tracking him. Being the MVP does not necessarily mean that he is the most indispensable player in the squad though. While it will be difficult to replace him, there are players who can fill that role.
Julian Gressel plays the attacking #8 role differently, but he has shown promise thus far in preseason. We saw Josef Martinez play more as a second forward at times in both preseason games. They are not like-for-like replacements, but they can do a job for this team.
In my opinion, the most indispensable player on this roster is Michael Parkhurst. His veteran leadership in the back will be critical to the squad, and there is not a suitable replacement at the moment for him. Zach Loyd, once he recovers from injury, would be the next most experienced option at center back. While experienced in games, Loyd has not been a captain or leader on the backline in the same ways that Parkhurst has been.
Against Columbus, Parkhurst demonstrated the qualities that brought him to Atlanta and earned him the captain’s armband for 2017. Pairing with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Parkhurst was very sound with his positioning. He cleaned up many Columbus attacks by being in the right place at the right time. After the game, he even tried to take some of the blame for Alec Kann’s mistake that led to the first goal. What Parkhurst brings to the team, both on and off the field, is irreplaceable.
In a perfect world, Atlanta United would not need to be without Almirón or Parkhurst for any extended period of time. However, I feel that they could survive the absence of Almirón but would struggle to compete without Parkhurst.
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