It’s nearly impossible to forget how Atlanta United struggled in the early months of 2019 in the CONCACAF Champions League and MLS last season. A new manager and new superstar struggling to adapt were the ones mostly blamed for these poor performances. With even more familiar faces departing this offseason than last year, could Atlanta potentially be putting itself in the same position again?
Less than a month away from its first competitive game of the new year, Atlanta sees a key player, Julian Gressel, depart for conference rivals DC United. Many fans are left grappling with what was long feared but seemingly inevitable — the loss of its leading assist maker and 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year, who outperformed his contract to such a large extent that his market value eclipsed what Atlanta United could reasonably afford to pay.
Gressel follows a long list of offseason departures who were key players for Atlanta United all the way back to the team’s championship season, from Leandro González Pírez to Darlington Nagbe among others.
Atlanta faces a tough task in replacing this group. The good news is that the team has already shown a level of foresight, acquiring Brooks Lennon in December to help man the right flank and adding an experienced center back in Fernando Meza prior to the first training session of the year.
But going into the new campaign, the side is seeing more of a transition than even the previous year when fans were unsure of a future without Tata Martino and Miguel Almiron. A little over a year has passed since the club’s 2018 MLS Cup triumph, yet half of the regular 18-man matchday squad remains.
Will a new backline and midfield be able to adapt in time or will the club have to go through yet another slow transition period?
Maybe the added depth in defense will turn the side into the impenetrable and possession minded system Frank de Boer had intended to establish. Perhaps the Five Stripes will begin the new campaign eager for more success with Frank and Pity leading the way having adjusted to life in Atlanta.
With the signings the club have made up to this point and the recent loss of Gressel, how does the side look set to start the new season?