We made it to 2022! What a ride this year has been; a high profile coach has come and gone, a season was saved by two young managers, and Atlanta United signed one of the most electrifying players MLS has seen in quite some time. But now it’s time to look to the future and continue one of the great DSS traditions: the five predictions for the coming season! This is always a fun time because come next December I’ll either sound like Nostradamus or I’ll fall flat on my face, but we desperately need some entertainment to occupy the offseason.
The past few years of this tradition have turned out some wonderfully correct guesses and some horrifically wrong ones, but having a bit of fun at our own expense is so necessary in this day and age. We all hope you enjoy reading these
truths predictions as much as we enjoy carrying on the legacy. And without further ado, let’s ride.
Josef Martínez has a 20+ goal/10+ assist season
So if this were the 2019 or 2020 version of this post, this would not be a bold prediction of any kind (maybe the assist part). Even a semi-fit and often absent Josef was on track to come close to these goals during the 2021 season, but it was blatantly obvious his knee was simply not 100%. Whether that is truly a physical issue, a mental roadblock, or a combination of both is unknown, but it was clear that he was troubled in many matches throughout the year. 2021 is a testament to Josef’s tenacity and grit more than his technique, but if he can harness both during 2022 like he did in his earlier Atlanta United years, 20+ goals in 2022 could be a springboard to his next 100 goals.
We also have to remember that Josef is surrounded by a ton of attacking talent, so 2022 may actually be a year he breaks the 10+ assist mark. His best year in an Atlanta United jersey was, you guessed it, 2018, where he notched six total. But with the likes of Luiz Araujo, Marcelino Moreno, Barco/Almada, and a healthier midfield with some veteran presence, he simply doesn’t have to be the focal point all the time. With an offseason of chemistry, the Venezuelan Viper will come out in 2022 with one of his best seasons yet.
Atlanta United Wins Their First Supporter’s Shield
Yeah, I said it. The team clearly has the talent, and it’s very easy to forget that the Five Stripes boasted one of the best records in MLS in the second half of the 2021 season. They didn’t just dig out of a hole, they were head to head with the 2021 Shield winners in terms of points per game approaching the end of the season. By Atlanta United standards, it’s been far too long since the club hoisted a piece of silverware, and they desperately need to go ahead and snag a Supporter’s Shield. 2022 is the year they get back on top of the points game.
Luiz Araujo Wins MLS MVP
Luiz Araujo arrived in MLS like a lightning bolt and quickly became a human highlight reel. By his own admission he is still developing chemistry with his teammates, but he still managed to notch 4 goals and 3 assists in 16 total matches in 2021. MLS continues to bring in better talent as the years go by, but Luiz has both the work ethic and talent to become a nightmare for defenders in 2022. It seemed like the league started to figure him out as the end of the season approached, but in my personal opinion that seemed to be more of a fundamental flaw in the attacking formation than anything. Regardless, he’s going to be MVP in 2022 and that’s all that matters.
Miles Robinson Moves to Europe in the Summer Transfer Window
IT JUST MAKES SENSE, OKAY?! Why has Atlanta United not received an offer of half the United States budget deficit for Miles Robinson? It’s criminal. The man has literally made lemons out of lemonade for the Five Stripes’ back line at times, and he’s completely taken over the main defensive responsibilities with the USMNT. I truly feel like Miles is one of the most underrated players in the world for everyone who isn't an Atlanta United fan or a real follower of the U.S. Men’s National Team. Walker Zimmerman is good, but there’s no way he should’ve won any award over Miles this year. Period.
By the time the summer transfer window rolls around, the rest of the world will have opened its eyes to the value of SkyMiles and he’ll quickly be on a plane bound for some legendary European team. Atlanta United will then use the cash to sign a relatively unknown midfielder from Paraguay or Argentina who will help turn the team into a Concacaf Champions League winner in a year. Mark my words.
We said the predictions were going to be bold. SkyMiles.
Brooks Lennon Channels His Inner Julian Gressel
I don’t know of anyone on Atlanta United’s roster that is more divisive than Mr. Lennon. I literally just erased a whole paragraph about Andrew Gutman replacing George Bello, which should tell you how bold of a prediction this is. Brooks Lennon is going to score four goals this year and is going to provide 10 assists. I see the fire inside; he’s going to make it happen.
Why in the world would you predict this, one might ask. Two reasons. For one, Brooks Lennon is going to settle into a truly beautiful role that will be bestowed upon him by Gonzalo Pineda; one which will actually turn all those crosses into assists. One in which he passes into the box more often instead of back to Miles Robinson, and one in which the team is more in sync with his crosses.
The second reason is more subjective. I spent a vast portion of my adult life learning how to read people’s body language in a job where interpreting the wrong signal could be very detrimental. I've noticed Brooks Lennon’s body language in interviews over the past couple of months, and I feel like he is one of the hardest workers on Atlanta United’s squad. Hard work doesn't always equal success, but it does help a player to make something out of nothing. Now that Gonzalo Pineda has had time to adjust his squad and play style, Brooks will come out in 2022 as one of the most surprising players of the year. Between his newfound aggression and Luiz Araujo’s Brazilian Chef trickery, other teams won’t know what to do with Atlanta’s right side.
I wish I knew what was happening with Barco, but I truly feel like his issue is a coin flip at this point. He's a great player, and 2021 was his breakout season. But he deserves to be in Europe at this point, so I won’t even try to make a prediction. There’s just a nagging feeling that the right offer hasn’t come yet, nor will it arrive in the offseason. I will, however, give a freebie prediction: Barco and Thiago Almada somehow end up on the Atlanta United roster together for some amount of time.
I don’t know what weird alternate dimension of MLS roster rules it can happen in, but I guarantee Atlanta United’s 2022 roster will find a way. Maybe it’ll be long enough for Zeke to whisper to Almada that he’s going to transform BAMM into MLS’s MAMBA (y’all forgot about Brooks’ newfound aggression), or maybe it’s a matter of signing Almada and asking for forgiveness like Inter Miami, but we’ll see the two Argentines on paper together with the Five Stripes, even for a short time.
And there you have it, folks. The 2022 predictions are here and ready to be pulled apart, analyzed, and thrown away. Maybe by the time Atlanta United wins the
MLS Cup Supporter’s Shield in October y’all will see just how important this article truly was.
Also, Marcelino Moreno will accept his Mandalorian responsibilities this year. Bet. Happy New Year, y’all.