Regression was a common theme in Atlanta United’s 2020 season, but none personified it more than Emerson Hyndman. His loan from A.F.C. Bournemouth was made permanent in the 2019 offseason, but thanks to poor form on the pitch and a heavy contract off it, that decision is increasingly looking like a mistake.
Games Played: 23 (16 starts)
What went right this season?
When the American’s stay in Atlanta was made permanent, there was hope he could fill the hole that Darlington Nagbe’s departure left or at least become an anchor in the Five Stripes’ midfield.
This was from Hyndman’s 2019 report card:
Hyndman is a really versatile player. He does a lot of things well to set up shooting chances, has great vision, makes terrific runs, and can drop back and hustle when Atlanta isn’t in possession.
That said, he’s not exactly great at any one of these things. That’s fine for him and it’s probably good for him to be adaptable since he’s finishing up his third loan spell, but to take a step forward it’d be great for him to find a settled role.
Safe to say, Hyndman did not take that “step forward”. In fact, the opposite is more the case. Atlanta United’s midfield was one of the biggest areas of weakness in 2020 (and that says a lot). Hyndman disappeared from games all too often, never providing anything resembling the steady stream of crisp passes we saw from Nagbe. He looked at his best in more advanced positions but it was a rare sight to see him near the box. Still, there’s hope for him in Atlanta.
4th most minutes of outfielders
What does he need to improve on?
At just 24, Hyndman still hopefully has his best years ahead of him. More importantly, though, is the coaching change. Gabriel Heinze's possession-based style of play could suit Hyndman and bring out his best.
What role will he play in 2021?
Though the front office will surely be trying to find anyone
foolish canny enough to take Hyndman’s massive contract off their hands, the odds are the American will still be in Atlanta in 2021. Heinze will want some midfield signings of his own, but there’ll be plenty of room to fit Hyndman in. Whether he takes a starting spot or merely a depth role depends on Heinze's decision and how the offseason roster build takes shape.