Atlanta United’s 2020 season has thankfully come to and end, which means we can all now shift our focus onto how this club can get back to their winning and exciting ways.
Carlos Bocanegra and the rest of the technical staff have a monumental task in front of them this offseason. They must pinpoint the team’s weaknesses and figure out how to improve them so this team can return to at least being watchable once again.
There are plenty of things that need to be improved within the squad that we’ll be ranking here today. One note is that the search for a manager is undoubtedly the biggest task of the offseason and it should go without saying. We’ll only be focusing on squad related issues in this post. Here’s our take on the biggest offseason needs for the Five Stripes heading into next season.
1. The 6
Last offseason I wrote an offseason primer that focused solely on the nearly impossible task of replacing Darlington Nagbe. While the club did try to bring in some help in the midfield like Matheus Rossetto, it just didn’t work out. The hole left by Nagbe’s departure was undeniable. Couple that significant hole with the declining form of Eric Remedi and the inevitable aging of Jeff Larentowicz and the midfield was a bit of a train wreck all season.
If the club does nothing else this offseason, it must find a dynamic defensive midfielder who can make a difference in both the attacking and defending phases of play.
Whoever the new manager is will need a rock in the midfield to build around. The style of d-mid that the club needs to bring in will obviously vary depending on the style of play. However, the general characteristics that the club need in such a player will remain the same. They need a No. 6 who can be relied on in possession, who can distribute the ball and dictate the pace of play while also adding some defensive steel.
2. A Dynamic Attacker
Josef Martinez should be back in 2021. Marcelino Moreno can only improve once he settles in. Erik Lopez will finally be available to play. Those are the good pieces of news when it comes to the Atlanta United attack. But, it still feels like the team needs at least one more truly impactful attacking player heading into next season. Whether it’s a winger, attacking midfielder or even a second striker, a dynamic attacking player to add into the mix seems pretty important.
The current attacking corps has promise. Jurgen Damm showed glimpses of being a big threat on the wing in MLS. Marcelino Moreno’s quality is obvious, but his role as a focal point or a supplemental piece in the attack still remains to be seen. Then, of course, there’s the enigma that is Ezequiel Barco.
If the current group isn’t added to it wouldn’t be a death sentence, but there just feels like something is missing. Adding someone who can chip in 15-20 goal contributions to supplement the hopeful normal elite production from Josef could go a long ways in getting this team back to the top of the league.
3. Centerback Upgrade
Another departure from the 2019 squad that was detrimental to the overall quality of the side was Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. They brought in Fernando Meza to try and help fill the void, but it just didn’t go all that well. Leandro’s absence affected the whole back line with Miles Robinson’s performances in 2020 suffering as well. A reliable and steady centerback addition could go a long way in shoring up the defense to give the team that sturdy base to work with.
It also wouldn’t hurt to find some one who could add to the team’s leadership in this position. Michael Parkhurst leaving the squad last year was also a big blow to the team’s spirit. If felt like they lacked someone on the field to hold everyone accountable and pick up the spirit when things didn’t go their way.
A dependable defender who can organize, motivate and help improve everyone’s play around them could be a huge addition to the whole squad.
4. Josef Contingency
When the apocalypse hits and you lock yourself in your bunker only to find that all you have to eat for the next five years are bananas. That’s basically when happened to Atlanta United when Josef Martinez went down with a season-ending injury in the first MLS match of the season.
Hopefully the club learned their lesson and realize they need to stock up on as many non-perishables as possible. That would be a solid backup striker who can contribute if the emergency alarm is pulled once again.
Even if the worst-case scenario never occurs, Josef is still coming off a major injury and cannot be relied on to play 30-40 matches in a season without help or rest. It only makes sense to have someone on the roster that can spell him from time-to-time.
5. Deep Cuts
Seemingly every other week while the team was struggling this past season someone would come out in the media and allude to players not playing up to their ability or not giving everything they possibly can to help the team succeed. It’s impossible to know who these players are, but I’m sure the team’s front office has a good idea. It’s important for them to do what they have to do to cut this type of mentality out of the squad. Whether it’s a high-priced player or someone who rarely plays, it’s imperative that this new Atlanta United era be free of any negative energy within the dressing room. Now is the time to get rid of any players who you don’t feel will buy-in to the rebuilding project.
This our our take on what Atlanta United needs heading into 2021. Let us know if you agree or disagree and what you’d add in the comments.