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2022 Player Preview: Emerson Hyndman

Just as he started to show his worth under Gabriel Heinze, Hyndman tore his ACL. How will he bounce back in 2022?

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Emerson Hyndman

Position: Center midfielder

2021 Games: 11 appearances, 11 starts (981 minutes)

What went right in 2021

Emerson Hyndman has never quite justified his hefty salary for Atlanta United, but he had become a mainstay in the starting XI under Gabriel Heinze, showing his best form since the Frank de Boer era. And then the injury bug bit. Hyndman suffered a torn ACL in June and was ruled out for the season. Amar Sejdic was brought in as an immediate replacement, but that was a clear Emerson Hyndman-sized hole in Atlanta United’s midfield (something that probably would have been seen as a good thing after a disastrous 2020 season). Hyndman’s 2021 form prior to his injury was night and day compared to 2021 and he flourished in Heinze’s possession-heavy system. The Five Stripes missed his on-the-ball qualities throughout the remainder of the season and lacked a midfield facilitator like Hyndman on the roster. If we see the 2021 Hyndman again this year, Atlanta could finally have a quality midfield unit at long last.

What to improve in 2022

As always with an injury as severe as an ACL tear, the big question is what form of the player will return. We saw with Josef Martinez that recovery is far from linear progress. Slowly guiding Hyndman back into action will be vital if we’re to see the American at his best again. Gonzalo Pineda recently said Hyndman isn’t quite match-ready yet so it could be a few weeks into the season before we see him racking up substantial minutes.

2022 Season Outlook

Matheus Rossetto’s emergence as a reliable option in midfield along with Ozzie Alonso’s signing means Atlanta is pretty much stacked in the center of the park. Santiago Sosa (a sure starter) and Franco Ibarra (depth) have their names in the hat as well, so Hyndman won’t waltz back into the XI once he’s fit. Still, he has to be near the top of the pile. At just 25 years old (and with a contract no one else would pick up) Hyndman is sure to be a fixture in Atlanta for some years to come. Getting him back up to speed has to be the number one priority this year, but a Sosa-Hyndman partnership is a tantalizing future midfield.