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Atlanta United have plenty to focus on during uncertain offseason

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It’s ... complicated.

MLS: Atlanta United FC-Press Conference Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United’s off-season ramped up a notch this week with the club losing several players through various mechanisms. One vital starter and several key depth players who provided vital moments throughout the season have departed and the gaps in the roster are glaring. The club have until the middle of February to make their moves and decisions to solidify their squad until the competitive matches begin.

Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra and Manager Frank de Boer sat down with media on Thursday in a conference call to discuss the decisions made so far and the long, complicated road towards the beginning of Concacaf Champions League that lies ahead.

The overall theme of this offseason seems to be uncertainty surrounding the impending CBA negotiations. Without knowing the exact roster and payroll restrictions, Bocanegra admitted that clubs around the league are in a bit of a “holding pattern” in regards to making important roster decisions.

The Departed

Bocanegra wouldn’t specifically address which positions the club are looking for, but a quick look at the moves so far and it’s pretty easy to use some common sense.

Darlington Nagbe’s departure opens an obvious hole in the midfield.

Mikey Ambrose, Brek Shea and Justin Meram — the three players who primarily featured on the left side of the field all season — all had their contract options declined.

Florentin Pogba and Michael Parkhurst, two veterans who played vital minutes in important matches in defense, are both gone.

Josef Martinez’s primary back-up, Brandon Vazquez, was picked in the Expansion Draft.

While Atlanta United’s roster still features plenty of talent, there are quite a few holes within it that will need to be addressed this winter.

Many Moves, Little Time

Along with the cloudiness of the CBA, the time-crunch of having all these needs filled by the start of the CCL is also there. Frank de Boer mentioned on the call that he hopes that comes to fruition to make sure the team is fully settled and they have the best chance of success in that difficult competition.

“Last season Pity [Martinez] came in late and [Darlington] Nagbe wasn’t involved in the beginning,” De Boer said. “So, it’s important that we have the roster clear when we start playing these important games.”

To help prepare more wisely for the CCL, the team will take a preseason trip to Guadalajara, Mexico.

More Of The Same?

One big difference between last season and this upcoming season is the familiarity aspect. The players have a better understanding of what to expect from their manager and Frank understands the league and what he has to work with better. De Boer mentioned several times throughout the call that he envisions playing with both three in the back and four, like he did towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.

“Because we used the system that Tata [Martino] used a lot and also at the end [of the season] we played the four [at the back]. It’s an advantage that we know exactly what we want. I’m looking forward to playing again and letting them feel that it’s easy to swap between the two.”

Random tidbits

  • One player who arrived during De Boer’s first season was Emerson Hyndman. His loan from AFC Bournemouth will officially expire at the end of December, but Bocanegra seemed optimistic on him being back for 2020, saying he hoped to have “good news” on the negotiations in the coming weeks.
  • He wouldn’t say much on the club’s negotiations with Julian Gressel, but did call him a “priority” and admitted that the CBA is complicating that matter as well.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Bocanegra revealed that both Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Tito Villalba have more than one year left on their contracts heading towards the future.
  • Finally, he let it be known that there is transfer interest in some of Atlanta’s players but wouldn’t go into specifics. The club expects Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco to return for 2020.