In the final part of the series, we look at the forwards and assess the form of our strikers and attacking wingers. Due to sample size, Jeffrey Otoo and Romario Williams will not be included.
Stock on decline
Kenwyne Jones, ST – Jones didn’t play as much as he would’ve wanted this preseason as he missed time to sort out the status of his work visa. In great news, he secured a green card that opened up roster spots for some other internationals in the squad. The bad news is that Jones’ performances on the pitch were below par. He didn’t take his chance on a couple of occasions vs. Chattanooga, and his touch just didn’t seem right through the duration of his minutes in preseason. I think he’s lost his place as the starting striker in Tata Martino’s preferred 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 system, but he’ll still be a valuable piece coming off the bench and will help on set pieces on both sides of the ball this season.
Brandon Vazquez, ST – Vazquez was a player I was excited to see after the whispers that came out of the team’s training camp in Florida that he was one of the standout performers. That wasn’t the case in his preseason game time, unfortunately. Like Jones, Vazquez is a tall, strong player who should specialize as a “target man” who can hold the ball up and help the midfield get involved in the attack. He was simply poor at executing this during preseason. Vazquez is still a young guy, so there’s lots of time for him to improve, but he’s not quite the player I expected to see.
Stock on the rise
Josef Martinez, ST – What more can you ask for from Martinez? He was a major threat at all times and scored in every game he played, including a brace against Seattle Sounders [reserves]. His speed up top allows Atlanta to play with a different dynamic as opposed to Jones/Vazquez. Opposing defenders can’t push up so high as to leave themselves vulnerable to his speed, which means there’s more room for our midfielders to operate. I expect Martinez to lead the line at striker for the majority of the season for Atlanta.
Yamil Asad, LW – Like some others in the squad, Asad was an enigma coming to Atlanta. There were rumors of poor effort and attitude at his former club, but that hasn’t been evident so far in Atlanta. Assessing his play on the field, I think he dwells a little bit too long on the ball from time to time, but no one can deny his productivity. Asad scored twice in preseason, one of which was an absolute peach – a curler from outside the box right on the postage stamp.
Hector Villalba, RW – Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like Tito is the most underrated player in the squad due to all the exciting news and events that have happened since his signing last summer. He’s been everything he was cracked up to be and more (with the “more” being a scoring touch). He is a nightmare to defend with his blistering speed. But what impresses me most is his final ball in the box. He’s displayed composure and awareness to pick out a teammate for a pass, or a sniper’s accuracy with his finishing. He cleverly scored a nutmeg goal against Seattle, so even beyond his playing ability, he’s got a sense of humor. What a guy!