I am basically writing this because I am part of one of the Atlanta United fan groups on Facebook and I usually am tolerant of what people post on there until this offseason happened. I know that most of the people in this group is generally an uneducated or new to soccer bunch but after losing a few historic and generally prevalent to Atlanta's brief history players this offseason the takes have been flying, so I would like to defend these moves made by Darren Earles.
The biggest news to the fan base was the departure of Julian Gressel. Gressel was a key piece to the team once Tata found out where to play him. I mean, that first year he had to play three or four different positions until he adapted into that wingback role that proved to be so deadly. Yes, his assists numbers cannot be replaced that easily, but those assist number meant we had to pay him a lot more money than we can afford. This is one of the only salary capped leagues in the world and that means you have to break up teams sometimes to adjust. Whether you like that or not, that is the reality of the league currently. We have two capable candidates that can replace Julian, in Franco Escobar and Brooks Lennon. We know what Franco can do in that position as he has done it successfully before. Maybe not on the level that Julian played but he is more capable offensively getting up the field and providing a spark offensively as well as contributing defensively. Coming off an injury abrupted season, Franco has got to be ready to contribute this year. Brooks Lennon is also a very capable candidate. Coming over from Real Salt Lake where he played in a more defensive fullback role, although willing to join the attack did not have the same offensive contribution last year as Julian, with only one assist last year. You have to expect for that to go up with a more volatile offensive Atlanta United offense than struggling RSL. Also, as a former wing player he has experience in the offensive end of the pitch. An american player is also great for squad registration, and with his impressive resume as a former Liverpool youth player, and at only twenty-two years of age, the potential is still there.
Always present resident shithouse Leandro Gonzalez Pirez leaving was a hard one to take for me. LGP was the center and geart of the team and one of the early South American that embraced Atlanta. His impressive commitment to the team was shown as after a year he was speaking fluent English to reporters. I loved LGP, his antics were ever apparent and it was not a proper Atlanta united game without a yellow card being issued to him, or in the Almiron years, him or Carlos Carmona telling whoever hurt Miggy what their thoughts were about the challenge. I honestly can not say anything bad about the guy, I even loved his reckless forty-fifty yards he'd dribble out the back. He is definitely going to be missed as now the first scorer in the history of Mercedes-Benz Stadium is gone (LGP) and the first scorer in Atlanta United history is gone (Yamil Asad), yes, sad face. I do think the quick addition of Fernando Meza as a like-for-like addition to the squad can fill the hole. Fernando has played at a top level in Argentina, Mexico, and Chile and can certainly move into a starting role seamlessly with Atlanta United. With only six yellow card awarded to him last year,he may be even a more discipline partner to Miles Robinson.
Tito Villalba leaving definitely hurts the female population of Atlanta United (I mean the guy is hot) but overall we are dumping a big contract on a guy that arguably did not produce for what he was worth. Yes, the guy has wheels but those wheels in my opinion did not take from the fact that he could not finish last year. His accuracy was sure a downfall for Tito with only nine of his twenty-eight shots last year were on goal, and of those nine shots on target he scored one of them. Arguably, not a great haul for a one of the more higher paid players on the team.
Darlington Nagbe leaving should have been easy to accept but for the people that do not understand, I am ashamed for you. Nagbe wanted to be closer to his family in Ohio and be back with former college and Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. Do not see anything wrong in that, Darlington is back in his element. It did leave a hole that hopefully will be filled with the signing of Matheus Rossetto. Falling out of favor in Brazil, he was a cheap but hopefully impactful addition to Atlanta Uniteds midfield. I think he will be a playmaker in an already impressive Atlanta United offense with multiple weapons available to him.
Do I think that some of the of the departures hurt a little bit more than others but I still think that this will still be a good team. Frank De Boer is forming what he wants his team to be and all the power to him. Yes, the glory days of Tata are behind us but the necessary steps have taken place to move into this new era of Atlanta United.