A lot has changed since the first projected depth chart. Carlos Carmona is gone(sigh), Gbenga Arokoyo and Tyler Pasher signed elsewhere, Jacob Peterson was waived, and an entire preseason gave us some insight on how Tata Martino feels about this crop of players.
Let’s revise our original prediction and see where everyone stands heading into the regular season. Here’s a rough depth chart for Atlanta United as of February 27.
*stars denote a secondary position for the player listed. George Bello and Lagos Kunga are training with Atlanta United 2 and Patrick Okonkwo and Gordon Wild are training with the Charleston Battery. Therefore, none of them are included.
Literally nothing changed between the sticks when it comes to what roles Brad Guzan, Alec Kann, and Mitch Hildebrandt are expected to play. The only storyline at the position heading into the preseason was whether or not Kann or Hildebrandt would be the backup to Guzan. Martino’s decision to play Kann against Nashville and Charleston and not hand Hildebrandt any minutes says it all.
Prediction: First Team: All three players, but it’d be nice to see Kann and Hildebrandt rotate in goal for the reserve team while Guzan is taking care of business, just so the two stay fresh if called upon.
No revisions are necessary quite yet. Although Chris McCann didn’t play at left back at all during the preseason, I contribute that more to the need for a central midfield rotation rather than a disregard for what McCann was able to do on the left when Greg Garza went down with an injury last season. If Garza were to struggle with injuries again this year, Martino would remember the value the Irishman presented. Ambrose was solid this past month. He’ll be the clear backup when McCann is utilized more centrally. Jose Hernandez should spend a season in USL. He showed flashes of potential, but isn’t ready to be an MLS defender. That’s okay. He’s only 20 and isn’t being relied on to contribute.
Prediction: First Team: Greg Garza, Chris McCann, Mikey Ambrose. Reserves: Jose Hernandez
Considering how often Atlanta rotates into a three-man backline during a match, I think it’s fair to put Franco Escobar behind Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Michael Parkhurst in the depth chart. Garza will push up the left to join an attack while the other three starting defenders occasionally sit back and change the formation. Jeff Larentowicz backed up Parkhurst while he was out injured during the preseason, but he is expected to be the starting holding midfielder for Atlanta to start the campaign. It says a lot about Martino’s perspective of Miles Robinson that he only played him the second half against Nashville and in a reserve-heavy lineup against Charleston all while Larentowicz, who will be looked upon as a crucial starter at another position, got more minutes at center back than he did. However, considering that the four men in front of Robinson will all start, he will make the 18 by default even though a season in USL would do him well.
Prediction: First Team: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Franco Escobar, Jeff Larentowicz, Miles Robinson
Sal Zizzo was a much needed backup for Escobar. The MLS veteran is a good second option. Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu spent the last few minutes of the Charleton match at right back. He’s another player that would benefit from consistent minutes in USL.
Prediction: First Team: Franco Escobar, Sal Zizzo. Reserves: Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu
Although it certainly isn’t ideal, McCann appears to be the first choice option off the bench for Larentowicz and Kevin Kratz will relieve Darlington Nagbe. Oliver Shannon could be additional depth coming off the bench, but ideally he’ll see time with AU2. Martino already made it clear that Chris Goslin will be a regular in Gwinnett.
Prediction: First Team: Darlington Nagbe, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris McCann, Kevin Kratz. Reserves: Oliver Shannon, Chris Goslin, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu
Although Gressel didn’t see any time at CAM during the preseason, the MLS Rookie of the Year did well enough last campaign to warrant another look. Kratz saw a few minutes in this position over the past month, while Andrew Carleton actually started at the 10 spot against the Charleston Battery and did well enough to earn a spot in the 18.
Prediction: First Team: Miguel Almiron, Julian Gressel, Kevin Kratz, Andrew Carleton
This is where Carleton is likely to see most of his playing time, as he solidifed himself as the clear second option to Ezequiel Barco. Brandon Vazquez had an average preseason, but has still earned a spot on the first team. Jon Gallagher earned his first minutes with the Five Stripes last weekend, but an early exit after an apparent ankle injury may mean a couple appearances with the reserves to regain form.
Martino says Gallagher’s ankle is badly swollen. #atlutd— Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC) February 25, 2018
Prediction: First Team: Ezequiel Barco, Andrew Carleton, Brandon Vazquez. Reserves: Jon Gallagher
This seems pretty straightforward unless Martino saw enough from Carleton to put him ahead of Vazquez in the pecking order.
Prediction: First Team: Tito Villalba, Julian Gressel, Brandon Vazquez, Andrew Carleton
Romario Williams was okay in the two tuneup matches he took part in. However, it’s unlikely his performances were enough to put him ahead of Villalba’s already proven ability up top.
Prediction: First Team: Josef Martinez, Tito Villalba, Romario Williams