With just about two months remaining until Atlanta United returns to competitive action, we feel it’s time to check in on how the offseason is going. While some of our readers are dedicated to following every single rumor and piece of news that arises during the downtime, we’re aware that many out there do not. In this post we’ll review everything that’s happened to the roster during a very active offseason so far and what needs to happen as we head into April and the return to action. Let’s start with official moves that have been completed by the club.
A few weeks after the 2020 regular season concluded, Atlanta United had some tough decisions to make in regards to who they should bring back for the following season. Every club in MLS has options on various players depending on contract status and a choice of whether to retain or release them.
- The following players had their options declined by Atlanta United: Erick “Cubo” Torres, Edgar Castillo, Andrew Carleton, Manuel Castro, Lagos Kunga, Brendan Moore, J.J. Williams, and Laurence Wyke. In addition, club legend Jeff Larentowicz saw his contract expire. Vice President Carlos Bocanegra confirmed the veteran wouldn’t be returning to the club.
- Cubo Torres would be the only one to re-sign later in the offseason, returning on a lesser contract and with a new mentorship role in tow.
- Atlanta agreed to a trade with Austin FC for Jon Gallagher. The team’s leading scorer in 2020 was sent to the new franchise ahead of the Expansion Draft in exchange for $225,000 in General Allocation Money.
- In early February, the club announced that it had waived striker Adam Jahn.
- Franco Escobar departed Atlanta United to return to Newell’s Old Boys on a one-year loan.
- Eric Remedi traded to San Jose Earthquakes in exchange for up to $500,000 in GAM.
- Fernando Meza loaned to Defensa y Justicia.
- The Five Stripes welcome three new Homegrown Players to the first-team roster in 2021. Efrain Morales and Jackson Conway were added to the roster on January 1, as previously agreed. They’ll be joined by Machop Chol, who the club signed ahead of the MLS SuperDraft.
- The transfer of Erik Lopez from Olimpia also kicked into effect for the start of the new year. Despite joining ATL UTD 2 on loan in the fall, he primarily trained with the first-team and didn’t play until the team’s rescheduled Concacaf Champions League match against Club America in December. He’s expected to play an influential role for Atlanta United going forward.
- The club acquired the MLS rights of left back Andrew Gutman from FC Cincinnati via the re-entry draft. He is currently owned by Celtic but Atlanta controls his rights should he return to MLS.
- Mikey Ambrose returned to the club as a free agent to help bolster the left back depth as well.
- Josh Bauer (CB) and Aiden McFadden (MF) were the club’s two selections in the MLS SuperDraft in January. Neither have signed a contract yet but should get a chance to impress during training camp.
- Veteran striker Lisandro Lopez joined the squad from Racing Club. The well-traveled attacker will be an interesting addition to the team both from a production and leadership standpoint.
- Atlanta’s biggest signing to date is 21-year-old Santiago Sosa from River Plate. The Argentine youth international is a highly rated defensive midfielder who will be expected to slot in immediately for Gabriel Heinze’s side.
- Acquired Ronald Hernandez on loan from Aberdeen.
2021 Atlanta United roster (as of Feb. 18, 2021)
Goalkeepers (2): Brad Guzan, Alec Kann
Defenders (10): Mikey Ambrose, George Bello, George Campbell, Franco Escobar*, Ronald Hernandez, Brooks Lennon, Fernando Meza**, Efrain Morales, Miles Robinson, Anton Walkes,
Midfielders (10): Mo Adams, Ezequiel Barco, Machop Chol, Jürgen Damm, Emerson Hyndman, Marcelino Moreno, Jake Mulraney, Matheus Rossetto, Santiago Sosa, Tyler Wolff
Forwards (5): Jackson Conway, Erik Lopez, Lisandro López, Josef Martinez, Erick “Cubo” Torres
* - on loan with Newell’s Old Boys
** - on loan with Defensa y Justicia
Eric Remedi’s time in Atlanta seems to be up. Rumors have strongly linked the midfielder with a move away from the club. The latest report from The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas says the San Jose Earthquakes are close to finalizing a trade for him. Another Argentine could be leaving, as well. Fernando Meza has emerged as another possible departure with his name coming up as someone the club are offering out on loan. San Lorenzo is the only club linked to him so far.
Atlanta United have been extraordinarily busy this offseason if the rumor mill is to be believed. They have missed out on a couple of high-profile names, according to reports. Several journalists claimed that the club made a big offer for top prospect Moises Caicedo before he agreed to join Brighton. They were also intertwined in a weird three-way struggle with River Plate and Defensa y Justicia for defender Hector David Martinez. They have lost out to River Plate.
There was even some vague rumors of Atlanta putting in a mega offer for Independiente star attacking prospect Alan Velasco. But there never seemed to be much confirmation there.
As for more concrete deals that look to be on the horizon, midfielder Franco Ibarra from Argentinos Juniors seems to be one step away from joining. The ever-reliable Cesar Luis Merlo and many others have reported that the deal has been completed. It appears that paperwork issues are the only obstacle to overcome.
The same can be said for Aberdeen right back Ronald Hernandez . Several outlets in both Venezuela and Scotland have reported he’ll be joining Atlanta United. A source familiar with the situation has indicated to Dirty South Soccer that it would be a loan move bringing the Venezuelan international to the club.
Atlanta will also likely be bringing in a young goalkeeper for some evaluation. 18-year-old Rocco Ríos Novo from Lanus has been linked with a loan move to the club ever since the transfer of Marcelino Moreno was completed. The Argentine-American arrived in Atlanta weeks ago to join the club but no official announcement has been made.
They have also been strongly linked with a move for 19-year-old Venezuelan winger Darwin Matheus from Zamora FC.
It seems likely that both moves will be long-term projects with the possibility of both starting out at the USL level.
What’s left to do?
With one centerback (Escobar) out the door and another (Meza) possibly to follow, it’s clear that this is the biggest area of focus for Atlanta’s technical staff. They will undoubtedly be sour about missing out on Martinez, who appeared to fit the bill of exactly the type of ball-playing, left-footed defender Heinze would need for his system. Expect to see the club linked to more defenders of that mold soon.
Even if the club do acquire a starting left-footed centerback, it looks like they’ll need even more depth at the position. If they aren’t confident in their current young options, perhaps they’ll look to bring in some experience there to help eat minutes.
Aside from shoring up the back line, there’s an argument to be made for the need of one more dynamic influential attacking player. The addition of Erik Lopez will undoubtedly help the Five Stripes’ attack. Depending on how the budget looks, the dream would be to find a way to add another DP or TAM-level attacking player. Whether it’s a winger or an attacking midfielder, giving the likes of Josef, Barco, Marcelino and Damm someone else to link up with would really put the squad over the top and finish it off for a run at a trophy or two.
Updated 2/18 - Fernando Meza loaned out
Updated 2/18 - Ronald Hernandez signed on loan
Updated 2/16 - Eric Remedi traded to SJ