After an exciting offseason that has spilled into the preseason, Atlanta United’s inaugural roster has pretty much taken its shape. Sure there could still be a minor move or two made between now and March 5th, for the most part what we see now is what we have to work with. Considering the roster as it is now, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone knowledgeable out there who would be concerned about that fact.
With the names in place, there is only one issue left to be solved by the team’s technical staff. That’s the overflow of international players acquired by the club. According to Wikipedia (including the addition of Carlos Carmona), Atlanta United have 12 international players.
Those players are: Miguel Almiron, Yamil Asad, Carlos Carmona, Julian Gressel, Kenwyne Jones, Kevin Kratz, Josef Martinez, Chris McCann, Jeffrey Otoo, Gonzalez Pirez, Hector Villalba, and Anton Walkes
Every MLS club was allotted eight international slots at the start of the 2017. Atlanta United acquired an additional slot from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for their 2017 SuperDraft pick, giving them nine currently.
Unfortunately the world of international players is very murky and there’s no concrete list to tell us who does and doesn’t qualify. Assuming the Wikipedia list is correct, advanced mathematics tell us that leaves the club with three players over the limit for international players. So, how do the club go about solving this problem? Here are two ways:
Trade for additional slots
Just like they did before the SuperDraft, Atlanta United could find a team out there willing to part with a slot for other assets. If Vegas accepted bets on such things, the odds on the club acquiring at least one more slot would probably be very good. However, it’s unlikely they add three more slots via trade. As the season grows closer, the demand for slots will skyrocket, thusly driving the price for one up as well.
A look at the current international slots being used show us a few possible teams who could part with a slot without it hurting them. The New England Revolution have four (FOUR!) slots being unused right now, while teams like D.C., Dallas, and Toronto have two slots available.
Trade or loan someone
The more likely scenario to meet the international slot quota is removing them from the first team roster in some fashion. Whether that means trading them to another team or sending them on loan to another MLS on NASL team/your club’s USL affiliate.
A prime candidate for such a move is Jeffrey Otoo. As harsh as it is, he’s very young and his international status makes him likely to be one of the first to go. The good news is, the team can keep him under their umbrella by loaning him to the Charleston Battery to get a valuable year of experience in American professional soccer.
Assuming the Otoo move happens as expected, that leaves two decisions to be made. Hopefully another slot is acquired, cutting that to one player left to be dealt with.
Anton Walkes is an interesting name that we just don’t know a ton about. Spurs loaned him to Atlanta so they could help continue his development. It seems nearly impossible that Atlanta would send him out.
Crossing out the common sense names, the next two players who would make sense to loan out or trade is Julian Gressel and Kevin Kratz. Gressel is young and not a threat to start at any position in his first year. While he would add to the depth of the squad, he seems an option to be sent out. Then there’s Kratz who hasn’t played a professional soccer match since September 2015. There has to be a reason the club brought him in, but the numbers game can sometimes be cruel. If a tough decision has to be made, he could be the odd man out.