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A DSS Conversation: Atlanta United Summer Signings

Talking about who the Five Stripes could be looking to sign to bolster their run at repeating as champions.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Frank de Boer revealed to media members after Atlanta United’s 2-0 win over Chicago Fire that the club will be looking to add to its roster during the upcoming summer transfer window. The decision to waive 2019 first round draft pick Anderson Asiedu was a clear plan to open space for some type of move. But what move?

In this post, Managing Editors Joe Patrick and Rob Usry will try to reason out the possibilities and probabilities of what De Boer and the front office have planned when the window opens on July 7. This is a transcript of their discussion on the topic.

Rob: Everyone loves a good transfer rumor, probably no one more so than the both of us. The chats we’ve had in private about possible moves and signings are endless. So, I think it would be fun for our readers to follow along with our reasoning in trying to figure out what the team is looking for this summer.

I joked that this post should just be me clamoring to sign Yamil Asad at every turn. But let’s seriously start right there. It’s no secret that plenty of Atlanta United fans still have affection for Yamil. And it’s widely known that he’s not playing at all in Argentina. So, why not bring him back? Personally, I think he’s the type of player that would fit De Boer’s system perfectly. He’s technical, smart, selfless and has an incredible work rate. Seems to be exactly the type of player that Frank covets. This is my number one target, obviously. Please use some logic to kill my and the Yamil fans’ dreams.

Joe: You’re not wrong at all. And not only is he a perfect profile for the type of attacking midfielder de Boer wants, but he’s the one “big” signing that would assimilate the fastest. He’d theoretically be able to give you his best as soon as he’s fit (which is a concern considering his 19 minutes played in one appearance this season, but I digress). In addition, Darren Eales would have a relationship with his agent and his club, Velez, after the deal to bring Asad on loan in 2017. Also, Darren Eales knows the people want this, and he’s a man of the people.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Atlanta United FC John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

But for as many reasons it makes sense, there are also stumbling blocks. Like, do we even have the ability to just sign him even if we had the money? Yes, international slots look to be available, but I’m pretty sure D.C. United has his rights... or something. Also, yeah the money. We’d need some to make it work, so there will be collateral damage. This is where I could see the team and Tito Villalba agree to move on. Tito just doesn’t appear to be de Boer’s favorite player. Also, his contract surely must be coming to an end soon, so the window you have to receive decent value is probably limited to this coming summer window.

Do you think we make a big sale? De Boer’s response to Doug Roberson’s question makes me think he has plans beyond Anderson Asiedu’s vacated roster slot.

Rob: It’s quite possible. It’s easy to forget that the summer window is easier to find teams willing to buy, especially in Europe. Tito makes the most sense exactly for the reasons you listed. Let’s also not forget about the Darlington Nagbe rumors of this winter. I can’t see how those just vanished. What was the resolution? Did Nagbe get what he wanted? Or did he simply agree to wait. Columbus just lost one of their key midfielders and are struggling, so perhaps that door gets re-opened? Those are the two most likely departures I see happening.

I think everyone agrees that the team needs some depth, particularly at full back. So let’s go on the assumption that a player does leave and the club wants to bring in an impact player. The question has to be about what De Boer wants. What position does he want to improve in to help his style here in Atlanta? Frankly, you understand the tactical side way more than I do. So I defer to you. If you’re Frank de Boer, what position needs to improve the most to get the most out of your desired style of play?

Joe: Personally, I think he wants to add an attacking player, a bonus if that player can play as a striker. In general, I think it’s smart for teams to invest the majority of its resources in attacking talent. And besides, Atlanta has the best defensive record since the sport was invented in 2017. Considering as much, it’s interesting that the general consensus is that Atlanta needs to add a fullback (and I totally understand the rational). But cmon, this is MLS... everyone thinks they’re fullbacks are a weakness.

Let’s go back to Anderson Asiedu and his roster slot. Without drowning in MLS bureaucratic drivel, his vacated slot only opens space for a certain type of player: one that is near the league minimum or a homegrown player. I’m starting to think this spot will be occupied by an Atlanta United 2 player. Center back George Campbell has a college commitment, but a pro contract could convince him to stay. Defenders Guillermo Benitez and Wesly Decas played in the U-20 World Cup for Panama and Honduras, respectively. Benitez is an out-and-out athletic left back. Or, there’s Will Vint, a promising deep lying central midfielder who was previously in Manchester United’s academy. I’d guess we’re going to see something along these lines.

Rob: Okay. That makes sense, especially spending less on defense. I think the Shea/Parkhurst platoon has been fine, personally. Parkhurst is still good enough to be playing and fits perfect as the utility guy who can fill-in wherever needed since he’d not be supplanting Robinson or LGP at center back.

So, you think if a significant signing comes this some, an attacking player makes sense. I see where your head is at regarding Tito and I don’t blame you. While I think Tito leaving is very possible, I’d like to go back to my Nagbe theory. De Boer constantly talks about how much the midfield needs to be involved in his style. He’s mentioned several times that in an ideal world his midfielder duo (or trio) should be leading the team in touches every game.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

I love Darlington Nagbe, everyone knows this. But I’m not sure he’s the type of player that fits what De Boer wants to do. His ability to keep possession is fantastic and a huge asset, but I feel like a more creative deep-lying playmaker would make more sense for this team. Someone who can hit that cross-field diagonal into space for Gressel, Pity, Tito or whoever’s on the wing to run onto or play a lobbed ball over the top to Josef. Nagbe and Remedi just don’t have that in their lockers. I think someone like a Toni Kroos or Andrea Pirlo (or Wil Trapp if you want an MLS comparison) type of player who can open up oppositions with a single pass makes a lot of sense.

Joe: I know what you mean. When you think about a classic Dutch system, you think of a team with midfield passers, not dribblers like Nagbe. Still, I think Darlington has been one of Atlanta’s best and most consistent players this season. He arguably has the best first touch on the team, Pity included. I don’t see him leaving this window, primarily because even if you replace him with a signing, you make the team worse. As we know, signings take time to get going, and a player in the middle of the field will take even longer to get familiarized with the individual preferences of his teammates.

I think someone like Tito, on the other hand, is more expendable at a time like this when you have another wing player in Dion Pereira who looks like he’s going to be a good fit in this style of play. If you have confidence in him, you have some wiggle room on a signing. But then again, the team already signed Justin Meram a few weeks ago, so who knows. Silly Season never goes away, it’s always in the background doing pushups, getting stronger.