No matter what the history books of Atlanta United go on to say, nothing will take away from the fact that the club had a Georgia boy in goal for the first half of its inaugural season.
Decatur native Alec Kann was an afterthought of a selection in a rather tame and boring MLS Expansion Draft. He wasn’t even the first goalkeeper taken by the club (Clint Irwin was later traded away for Mark Bloom). Ironically, Kann is the only one of the five selected in that draft to have a meaningful impact on the club so far. (No disrespect to Mikey Ambrose, but he’s yet to do much on the field although there’s still plenty of time.)
A career MLS back-up for four years, not much was expected of Kann coming to his hometown team despite its expansion status. Atlanta United’s goalkeeping situation was a bit of a merry-go-round as the technical staff began building the roster. Sean Johnson was traded to Atlanta... for about two minutes, then he was traded away. That’s because the club had its eyes on Brad Guzan. That move eventually came to fruition in January when the U.S. international signed a pre-contact with the Five Stripes. However, since Middlesbrough refused to release Guzan early, he had to wait until the summer to arrive. That left the starting job open for the taking and Kann grabbed it with both mitts.
To say that Alec Kann’s performance as Atlanta United’s No. 1 goalkeeper through the first 18 matches in the season was perfect would be a lie. However, for someone who had very few expectations placed on him coming in, he’s won over a lot of fans for his consistency and valuable production between the posts. Sure, there were a few times where mistakes were made and even a goal or two could be blamed on him. But, for the most part, he was rock steady when his name was put on the teamsheet. For a goalkeeper that’s all you can ask.
Kann did all that was asked of him and that’s why so many Atlanta fans are torn over the fact that he was going to likely lose his job to Brad Guzan by default. It didn't seem fair to oust someone who’d performed admirably for another goalkeeper who may be deemed a marginal upgrade by some. Unfortunately, Kann sustained an injury, which effectively made the decision for the club. Guzan is now with the team and the problem seems to have worked itself out.
Nevertheless, before the Guzan era begins in Atlanta, it’s only appropriate to show some love to Alec Kann for the great work he did. A total of 18 games played, four clean sheets, eight wins, seven losses and three draws — that’s the tangible impact he had on the club. But it’s the trust he developed among fans and teammates that makes him such a key element to the squad. Yes, he’s now been relegated to being a back-up again once he’s healthy. But, having someone reliable backing up Guzan in case of injury or bad form is incredibly valuable. The proof is in front of our eyes. Kann picked up a significant injury. If the timing hadn't worked out the way it did, Atlanta would be in need of the services of their back-up for nearly two months.
On the surface, you could make the argument that Kann got the short end of the stick in this situation. He never really had much of a chance of hanging onto the starting job once the Guzan deal was announced, no matter how well he did. That didn't deter him from playing the best he could and helping Atlanta United into a playoff position under his watch. For that, we say thanks.