Atlanta United have drawn plenty of buzz this offseason for their activity in the transfer market. With the expansion team assembling a squad from scratch, they added experience both in defense and in attack with Michael Parkhurst and Kenwyne Jones to name but a few.
While veterans being added was an obvious move for an expansion team, Atlanta took a different approach to what most have done in the past and they went young. While the majority of expansion sides have opted to sign big names, who may have been on the wrong side of 30, to headline their squads, Atlanta United opted to sign a handful of young South Americans to lead their attack and the future looks bright.
Miguel Almiron (23), Hector “Tito” Villalba (22), and Josef Martinez (23) are Atlanta’s three designated players and the bright young stars are ready to take Major League Soccer by storm. Teams around the league should be worried as the expansion club prepares to unleash their young guns for the first time.
Almiron has been on the radar of soccer fans for a while, drawing reported interest from Arsenal before signing with Atlanta United. The 23-year old terrorized defenses in Argentina prior to making the switch to MLS and with three appearances under his belt for the Paraguay national team, he’ll likely add many more in the near future.
The Paraguayan will wear the number 10 for Atlanta and will likely play the role of providing Kenwyne Jones and Josef Martinez in their respective forward roles.
Tito Villalba had been plying his trade in Argentina before signing on loan from Club Tijuana, and his move has gone under the radar after the numerous acquisitions that followed his arrival. Villalba scored Atlanta’s first ever goal in preseason and will look to add plenty from the wing throughout the season, feeding off Almiron and Martinez in attack. He’s only 22 and is still quite raw, but the Argentine’s pace and bag of tricks will have defenders on their toes all season.
Atlanta’s third and final designated player came from South America like the previous two, but unlike the others, Josef Martinez has a fair bit of European experience under his belt. The 23-year old struggled in his time with Torino in Italy’s Serie A and was sent on loan to Atlanta where he has excelled in a short preseason with the team. The forward has experience with the Venezuelan national team, scoring nine times in 37 appearances, and may emerge as Atlanta’s main source for goals along with Jones.
The future is bright for Atlanta United and as shown in preseason, they are deadly in attack. It could take a while for the expansion side to get going, but with a young, exciting attack leading the way, they’ll be one of Major League Soccer’s most exhilarating teams to watch in 2017.