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Atlanta United ins and outs: Midfielders

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Offering our opinions on the chances each player in midfield could leave the club in the transfer window.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta United offseason is upon us. The inevitable roster transition is only a matter of days from beginning. Once MLS Cup has concluded, the roster freeze will be over and teams can wheel and deal. It’s 100 percent likely that a player on the Five Stripes’ 2019 roster won’t be one the 2020 version, that’s just the reality of a league like MLS.

Before we get to the business at hand, let’s use some deductive reasoning and gut feelings to put a percentage on the chances that your favorite player will leave and break your heart. In this three-part series, we’ll go through the entire roster and guess how likely it is a player will leave before the start of next season. It’s important to note that contract info is not readily available in most cases and we’ll be guessing at a lot of the statuses of players heading into the winter.

Part 1: Goalkeepers & Defenders

Midfielders

Mo Adams

Rob: We didn’t get to see a ton of Mo Adams after he came over in the trade from Chicago. From the little I saw, he seemed like a pretty good role player, capable of playing several different positions. These types of players are always the hardest to judge whether or not they’ll come back. He seems like a good squad player to have around. It honestly may come down to whether his $100,000 base salary fits into the budget. Chances of leaving: 15%

Joe: Yeah, hard to tell, but he actually got a decent amount of attention from FdB just considering the amount of times he was in the matchday squad, especially for the biggest games of the season in the playoffs. Adams is also a guy who showed he can bounce between the first team and Atlatna United 2, and can gain very different types of experiences in both settings. There will always be a market for athletic, ball-winning midfielders. Chance of leaving: 25%

Andrew Carleton

Rob: Where to begin with this one... It was another disappointing season for the club’s first homegrown player. It was supposed to be a season to prove himself under a new manager and he managed to see the field less under Frank de Boer than he did with Tata Martino. A passport mishap set him back quite a bit and ultimately relegated him to full time ATL UTD 2 player. He did eventually hit a run of good scoring form with the reserves but apparently picked up an injury towards the end of the season. His contact situation is unknown. Honestly, it felt like his time with the club could’ve been up a long time ago with as many issues as there have been. It could make sense for both parties to move on this offseason. Chances of leaving: 40%

Joe: “Are you ready, Andrew? Get ready to be a rock star. This is the beginning of your new life, man.”

Those were the words of Atlanta United team owner Arthur Blank in 2016, just moments before a 16-year-old Andrew Carleton stepped out of a blacked-out vehicle and into a throng of chanting Atlanta United fans awaiting his arrival with Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra in tow. Blank wasn’t wrong at all about what he said there, but I think if the club could go back and do something all over again, that whole rigamarole might be one of them. Of course, it’s easy to say that now, after seeing how Carleton’s playing career has unfolded and the success the club has had — it’s easy to forget that in 2016, the main priority was marketing and growing a fan base.

It makes me sad to think what has happened thus far. But there’s still hope. Carleton is so young, and he wouldn’t be the first to get his shit together after enter professional soccer unprepared for its challenges on- and off-the-field (and he’s struggled with both). I just don’t think there’s much of a chance of that happening here. If Carleton is to become the player he imagined himself to be, he has to get out of his comfort zone. He has to make that difficult decision where you consciously make life scarier, but doing so forges you into a more well-rounded player and person. For that reason, I hope he leaves, and it pains me to say that because whenever I’ve spoken to him, he’s incredibly fun-loving and nice. I tend to think the club thinks the same way. Chances of leaving: 75%

Chris Goslin

Rob: I wish I had some context to give on Goslin, but his status is a complete mystery to me. I had high hopes for him. His play with the U.S. youth teams was always encouraging, but it’s just never translated to the pro level. He played a total of 79 minutes this season in the USL. It’s unclear if that missed time was purely because of injuries or if he just wasn’t in the team’s plans. I don’t have much of an opinion on his future, so it’s a complete toss-up for me. Chances of leaving: 50%

Joe: I feel like he’s been injured ever since I started covering this team on a regular basis. It’s a shame, because I remember his performance from that 2017 U-17 World Cup when he played with Carleton and together they looked fantastic. Goslin looked like a strong, disciplined CM, and even rattled the crossbar with a 35-yard free kick. All this said, I kind of lean toward him staying, just because I don’t see there being any market for him whatsoever. And despite his three years at the club, I think he’s still an unknown quantity seeing how little he’s played at the USL level. If his contract is up, I think he’d likely get re-signed on a USL deal (which I consider staying). Chances of leaving: 30%

Julian Gressel

MLS: MLS Cup Conference Finals-Toronto FC at Atlanta United FC John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Rob: Let me preface everything I’m about to say here by declaring that I love Julian Gressel. He’s exceeded any and all expectations and proven to be a fantastic MLS player. However, the apparent testiness between himself and the club is worrisome. He’s reportedly got an option year for 2020. After that, he’ll be free to leave without the club getting any compensation. As much as I want the club to find room in their budget (within reason) for a long-term contract, I trust the decision makers to do what’s best for the future. If they feel there’s risk in losing him for nothing, exploring a trade this offseason wouldn’t be the worst idea ever. Get something while you can. For that reason, I don’t think it’s impossible that Julian departs this winter. Chances of leaving: 15%

Joe: Similar to what I wrote on LGP, Atlanta has to make some kind of move here, whether it’s to get rid or extend. But there’s no way in hell De Boer would be content with letting him leave. He’s tabbed him this season when discussing some of the more professional guys in the squad, and even back when players were unsettled at the tactics midseason, I remember Julian saying after the Houston game “whatever decision the coaching staff makes of how we play and how we approach games, I stand behind that 100 percent.” I know he’s frustrated with his contract — he’s the most under-compensated player in the league. I think the club will correct that. They have a captain here who’s only missing the armband. Chances of leaving: 5%

Emerson Hyndman

Rob: Emo had a very good run after working his way into De Boer’s rotation. He complimented the midfield pretty nicely. He’s not flashy, but he’s a valuable player to have in there to calm things down. His status as a Bournemouth player and his loan with Atlanta is all sketchy. There is speculation that he’ll sign permanently with the club after his Bournemouth contract ends? Personally, I’d like to see Hyndman return. However, if he’s being relied upon as the 2020 version of Darlington Nagbe, I’m skeptical. Chances of leaving: 35%

Joe: Shit, Emo is a great nickname for him that I was unaware of. Fits on another level too, as he kind of has that look of someone who blasts My Chemical Romance in the car with the windows up. But I digress... Yeah, I’ve heard that his deal was to basically come here on loan to finish out his Bournemouth contract and that there’s already an agreement in place for what his MLS contract will look like. And I’m with you: I thnk the idea was that he would be Nagbe’s successor, but I’m not convinced he can control the tempo of the game and be a press-resistant CM like Nagbe. People always talk about his size and how that affects his defensive ability in midfield, but for me, it’s how it affects his ability to hold onto the ball. Nagbe was sneaky strong as hell when it came to shielding players away, and I’m not convinced Hyndman has that. But I still like him and think he’ll be a first team regular in 2020. Chances of leaving: 5%

Kevin Kratz

Rob: Kevin Kratz’s base salary is $210,000. Kevin Kratz played one (!) minute for the first-team in 2019. Chances of leaving: 99%

Joe: To be fair to him, he was hurt quite a bit. But yeah he’s kind of a glaring sore spot when you look at the team’s budget. He could be back as a coach, but I don’t get the impression he’s retiring. He reminds me of one of those old MLS players like late-stage Brad Davis where he can’t really move, but still has an excellent right foot for set pieces and stuff. If he’s back, it’ll surely be on a new contract. Chances of leaving: 80%

Jeff Larentowicz

Rob: In 2016, Jeff Larentowicz was a seldom used bench player for a mediocre LA Galaxy team. In 2019, Jeff Larentowicz was a vital cog for one of the best teams in MLS. If the magical fountain of youth they had installed at the training center still works, ride this thing until the wheels fall off. Chances of leaving: 20%

Joe: Larentowicz feels like how Parkhurst was last year, where he clearly wanted to come back, but had to try to drum up interest from around the league to increase leverage. I think we’ll likely hear a rumor from Taylor Twellman or something saying Larentowicz has the Chicago Fire and Inter Miami pursuing him, but if I’m Jeff, I’m probably thinking it’s ATL or bust. He probably has one more year left in his career, and I don’t think he’s going to want to pack up his life and move just to join some struggling franchise. Hell, I live in apartment, and I face the decision every year whether it’s worth the hassle to move my life somewhere else for a place with marginally cheaper rent. Chances of leaving: 5%

Justin Meram

Rob: This one is quite tricky. Meram came over and was arguably the best midseason acquisition of any team in MLS. The big problem is his salary. A base salary of $650,000 is going be extremely difficult to justify. I just can’t see a club with the ambitions of Atlanta United willing to pay that much for a borderline starter. If they can find a way to keep him for cheaper, that would be the ideal scenario. But, I’m not sure how realistic that is. Chances of leaving: 60%

Joe: Yeah, kudos to the players and coaching staff for finding a way to utilize his skills in an unfamiliar role. Perhaps on other teams he’d be more versatile as a guy who can now play wingback or as an attacking midfielder, but he’s not an attacking midfielder on this team. There’s too much talent in those spots. It’s a shame because he’s a fan favorite and really is a good guy. I’m glad he was able to rebuild his career here after wasting away in the toxicity that was Orlando City during his time there. Chances of leaving: 75%

Darlington Nagbe

MLS: MLS Cup Conference Finals-Toronto FC at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Rob: Lets see if I can do this without crying. I reported back in February that Nagbe wanted a trade back home to Ohio. His preseason disagreement with the club was resolved and he had a fantastic season. Unfortunately, everything I’m hearing leans toward him still wanting to leave and now he has all the leverage with his contract apparently run out. It was two unbelievable seasons for the club and he was one of the main reasons why. Replacing him adequately will be nearly impossible. I wish I could see a scenario where they keep him, but everything points to him moving on. Chances of leaving: 99%

Joe: Yeah, and to back up what you’ve reported, I witnessed Julian Gressel go over to him in the locker room after the loss to Toronto, put his arm around a shirtless Nagbe (Gressel was dressed and on his way out), leaned in and so their heads were nearly touching and clearly having a moment that appeared to me as a farewell. Nagbe can’t be replaced man-for-man. There’s no one else really like him in this league. I’m interested to see how De Boer changes the team tactically to compensate. Chances of leaving: 99%

Dion Pereira

Rob: This seems pretty straightforward. Pereira had a fine season in spot duty. He was always one for the future when he was signed. It also helps that his salary is very manageable. He should be here for a while and hopefully he continues to get better. Chances of leaving: 5%

Joe: Yep. Developmental player still, but one who can contribute to the first team when needed. Seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He’s currently doing what Carleton needs to do. Move and go try to make it somewhere new, and if you do, you’ll be better off for it. Chances of leaving: 5%

Eric Remedi

Rob: For me, Eric Remedi was one of the most affected by Tata Martino leaving. He just didn’t seem to fit Frank de Boer’s more patient and calculated style. Remedi needs the freedom to bomb up and down the midfield and cause havoc. De Boer wanted him to be disciplined and stagnant. The two styles just didn’t click and Remedi had a down season compared to his 2018 showing. This incompatibility doesn’t necessarily spell the end for him at Atlanta United. But, it does make it more realistic that either he or management would be open to a change. Chances of leaving: 30%

Joe: Remedi is not really a “defensive” midfielder that he is often tabbed, though he can do a man-marking job as evidenced in the 2018 MLS Cup-winning playoff run. But in a Dutch-inspired 4-3-3, the CMs need to be pretty multifaceted, and the game seems to really speed up for Remedi when he’s thinking too much about his responsibilities. For a guy who is supposed to be the steady rock in central midfield, there were way too many times this season where he was chasing back trying to catch a midfielder who’d gotten goal-side of him, and those moments throw the team into total disruption. I think Remedi’s performance is one reason we saw LGP exposed so often this season, as the center back was then put in really difficult situations. I don’t recall LGP having too many shockers with Jeff Larentowicz sitting in front of him. As for Remedi leaving the club though, I’m not sure there’s a huge market for him, so I’d lean stay. Chances of leaving: 25%

Brek Shea

Rob: I think it’s safe to say that the left back plan of 2019 didn’t exactly work out. Part of this was due to Brek Shea’s injury. Before going down, he had an up and down time with Atlanta. He had some good performances and some bad. For me, his signing was always a weird one. He just didn’t seem like the type of fullback/midfielder that would fit here. Maybe I was wrong, but it feels like him coming back doesn’t make a ton of sense. Surely there are other, more traditional fullback options out there. Chances of leaving: 90%

Joe: I think your instinct on this was spot on. I can’t see him back after he was clearly upset with de Boer saying his knee was “totally destroyed.” Chances of leaving: 99%