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Where does Lisandro Lopez fit at Atlanta United?

The 37-year-old’s value might be mostly below the surface.

Racing Club v Independiente - Torneo Primera Division 2016/17 Photo by Gustavo Ortiz/LatinContent via Getty Images

Thanks to another Merlo Bomb last night, we understand that Atlanta United will be adding to its striker depth in the form of the well-worn Argentine, Lisandro Lopez. He’s expected to announce the decision himself sometime Tuesday, according to the report.

Lopez is about as experienced of a player as they come. At 37-years old, he’s seen most things possible as a player in the sport. He’s competed in everything from the UEFA Champions League to the Qatar Stars League. He’s been teammates of players like Hugo Lloris and Alexandre Lacazette (among a huge list of other greats who have since retired). And maybe most importantly in this instance, he’s played with Gabriel Heinze in several Argentina squads and against him many more times while both plied their trades in France’s Ligue 1.

Heinze will know exactly what he’s getting in a player who probably doesn’t have a ton of minutes left in his legs. Lopez’s advanced metrics were elite as of 2016, but has been in a clear path of regression ever since. But to focus on his benefits and shortcomings between the lines is a limited way to assess his arrival.

It’s very possible that what attracted Lopez to Atlanta the most is the chance to work under a respected manager like Heinze, as he himself keeps an eye on his own post-playing career. In the meantime, he can be a very useful mentor for Atlanta’s host of young, talented South Americans. Lopez knows what it’s like to move leagues and play in new environments, he knows what it’s like to play under the shadow of a giant transfer fee (his move to Lyon for over $26 million was BIG money back in 2009), and clearly he has technical and tactical advice on offer for his teammates.

Looking at Atlanta United’s squad, this move definitely spells the end for Adam Jahn despite having a year left on his contract. Jahn came to Atlanta from USL, and it seems most realistic that that’s where his career will continue in 2021, though it’s possible he wouldn’t have to leave town to do that. Atlanta United could, in theory at least, loan him to Atlanta United 2. Regardless, Lopez will fill his role on the roster. And in reserve, the team will have a young, energetic forward in Jackson Conway who can himself learn from Lopez and would likely be the go-to striker if Josef Martinez were to miss a number of consecutive games.

The initial reaction from some Atlanta United fans when this news broke last night was skepticism based on the fact that he’ll occupy an international slot while not playing a huge role on the field as a player. That’s an understandable concern and I’m not here to convince you otherwise. But what I’d also say is that if Heinze thinks it’s worth it and wants the player (and I think it’s safe to assume a player like Lopez is one Heinze will have targeted), then it’s probably best to trust him on this. Lopez will not command a transfer fee, and his salary is almost surely to be on the lower end of the scale, making this signing financially low-risk.