Welcome to part dos of this three-part series where we’re going to discuss players that Atlanta United could bring in to fill some of the gaps in certain parts of the field. Last time, we talked about goalkeepers and defenders. Today, we’ll be diving into potential midfield targets.
Kellyn Acosta - USA, age 27
A name familiar to many as an MLS veteran and a nailed-on starter for the USMNT, Kellyn Acosta brings many things to the midfield. He has really good vision to pick out passes, his passing is good and his shots aren’t anything to scoff at either. Defensively, he’s quick to win the ball back, can get in the air well and doesn’t hesitate to blast it out of the box. He just won the Supporter’s Shield with LAFC and is getting ready to play in the World Cup, so his value will definitely go up. Fortunately for Atlanta (and any other potential suitors), Acosta will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season if he doesn’t exercise the option on his contract. Is he likely to renew with LAFC? Probably, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.
Rafael Carioca - Brazil, age 33
Although Atlanta still has a veteran defensive midfielder in Ozzie Alonso, Carioca could fill the role nicely if Alonso is unable to play for some reason. He’s made 220 appearances with Tigres across the past five years and has helped them win four titles during his time there. Although he displays good ability with the ball, he primarily uses it to free himself from pressure before passing the ball upfield rather than running headlong into traffic. His long passing is a work of art and it helps significantly improve his team’s pace in transition. This is the kind of thing Atlanta could use in midfield as they sometimes seem clueless as to what to do with the ball when they win it back and often allow their opponents to get numbers back. Overall, his presence in midfield would greatly improve the team in several aspects.
Iván Gómez - Argentina, age 25
A younger choice for a defensive midfielder, Gómez currently plays for Club Athlético Platense in Argentina’s Liga Professional where he has made 14 starts and 16 appearances this season. He looks like a warrior in midfield, quick to come in and make strong tackles for the ball. He has an impressive ability to keep and protect the ball until he has an avenue for a pass. Speaking of passing, he has good passing ability and isn’t afraid to make runs off the ball to give his teammates options. His contract with Platense ends in December, so the timing to look into this signing could be just right.
Sebastián Gómez - Colombia, age 26
We ended the last section with a Gómez, so let’s start this one with another. This one is currently playing for Colombia’s Atlético Nacional where he has 2 goals in 11 appearances this season. He helped Nacional win their 17th Colombian Championship last season and recorded 1 goal and an assist in 15 games. While those may not be huge numbers, it’s the eye test that convinced me to include him in this list. His highlight reels include some very precise through balls to play teammates in 1-on-1 and fantastic balls over the top along the flanks to set up a deadly cut-back. He’s also got a good shot on him that’s allowed him to score some bangers from outside the box. This is an acquisition that could seriously up the Five Stripes’ game going into next season.
Cristian Medina – Argentina, age 20
This young Argentine is EXACTLY who the Five Stripes could use in the center of midfield. He’s got it all: he’s fast, he defends really well, he’s got strength, good shielding play AND his passing is superb. What more could you ask for? He’s made 12 appearances for Boca Juniors this season and has played for Argentina’s U16s and U17s and was at one point linked with a move to Villareal. He’s been riding the bench at Boca as of late, so maybe a move to MLS is just what his career needs.
Darlington Nagbe - USA, age 32
Hear me out: Caleb Porter was sacked over in Columbus earlier this week as the team failed to make the playoffs for the second season in a row. Atlanta United needs a rock in the midfield and who better than Nag-bae himself? Right now, Nagbe is occupying one of the Crew’s designated player spots, but Atlanta probably is going to be getting new DPs this offseason anyways. We’ve already seen how effective Nagbe can be in midfield and the fans LOVE him. Did things with him end on a sour note? Maybe... but perhaps it can just be water under the bridge after so much time apart.
Latif Blessing - Ghana, age 25
If you asked me to describe Blessing in one word, I’d say “dynamic.” He’s a true force to be reckoned with in midfield. His pace and vision allow him to run in and get on the end of crosses into the box seemingly out of nowhere and his passing is excellent and has been instrumental to LAFC’s attack over the years. Due to many of the big names that have gone through the Black and Gold camp, Blessing has mostly been relegated to depth, but there’s no doubt that he’d be a locked-on starter in Atlanta given the current roster. He’s also on the list of players eligible for free agency at the end of the season, so he should definitely be on Atlanta’s radar as a piece to strengthen their midfield.
Jorge Carrascal – Colombia, age 24
Carrascal is a player with tons of ability on the ball and his willingness to go forward quickly is something that Atlanta United could really use in the midfield. Between 2019 and 2021, Carrascal scored 9 goals and recorded 6 assists in 81 appearances with River Plate including 22 appearances in Copa Libertadores.
He received his first cap for Colombia’s senior national team just a few weeks ago and his presence in the midfield brought a sort of spark to a team that, up until that moment, had been pretty boring to watch. Carrascal also shows great defensive ability, able to drop back quickly, recover the ball and move it up the field swiftly.
He’s currently playing in the Russian Premier League, so he may be open to moving to a league with more visibility. All in all, he’d make a great addition to the team and would be a joy to watch for fans.
Pablo Torre - Spain, age 19
Hey, I heard LA Galaxy brought in a midfielder that wasn’t getting a lot of minutes at FC Barcelona and he’s doing pretty well. What if we tried that? Well, here’s a player that we could try to bring in to make a difference. Torre has only really been able to prove himself with his former club, Racing Santander in La Liga’s second division. Torre had 59 total appearances with Racing in which he scored 14 goals and recorded 16 assists. He’s also featured in eight matches for Spain’s U-19s where he scored 3 goals. This year, he made a move to Barcelona but has only made a nine-minute appearance with the Catalonian club thus far. At his age, he could sure use some playing time and MLS is certainly a league where he can thrive.