Position: Defensive midfielder
2021 League Games: 25 appearances, 25 starts (2,189 minutes)
What went right in 2021
The arrival of Santiago Sosa almost exactly a year ago filled a large, defensive midfielder sized hole in Atlanta United’s roster. Brought in under MLS’ new U22 player initiative, Sosa’s rumored six million dollar transfer from River Plate didn’t require him to take up a Designated Player spot, bolstering the quality of the roster as one of the major additions of the ill-fated Heinze experiment. Sosa locked down his role in the lineup early on, and retained his starting position under Rob Valentino and then Gonzalo Pineda as the midseason coaching fiasco played out.
Throughout the season, Sosa achieved high percentiles in key statistical areas per 90 minutes such as blocks (95th), clearances (94th), and aerials won (91st) compared to the league’s midfielders, making him an integral piece of Atlanta United’s squad. So integral, in fact, that the Supporters’ Shield winning New England Revolution specifically targeted him on the ball in their 2-1 win over Atlanta in May. Sosa’s versatility was also beneficial to the Five Stripes, lining up at center back when needed during Champions League or regular season play.
And of course, his true excellence and soccer intellect shone through in his quotes to the media. You’re right, Santi: That’s football.
What to improve in 2022
Sosa was one of the standout players for Atlanta United in 2021, and there’s little reason why that shouldn’t be the case going into 2022. However, if Atlanta is to continue their upward trajectory out of the depths of previous seasons, they’ll need improvement from all players, including Sosa. According to American Soccer Analysis, Sosa’s goals added metric comes in at -0.87. Not great in terms of overall production as a defensive mid, but not awful, either.
With the revitalized attacking quartet of Josef, Araujo, Moreno, and Almada, along with the higher pressing roles of fullbacks under Pineda, the need for Santiago Sosa to be a solid foundation has never been more vital.
2022 Season Outlook
It may take a minute for Sosa to work his way up to his full potential as the 2022 season begins. After receiving surgery at the end of 2021 for a sports hernia, Sosa has spent the offseason and much of preseason recovering, setting back his match fitness and overall familiarity with the team to start the year. With a green card visa currently in the works for him, he could no longer take up an international roster spot, although at the expense of missing the final preseason match against Birmingham and likely the season opener against Sporting Kansas City.
Sosa will have capable depth with the addition of veteran Ozzie Alonso, and while his starting job as holding midfielder shouldn’t be in jeopardy, it should bring some good competition to training as both players compete for playing time. The return of Emerson Hyndman to the midfield could be a tasty lineup pairing as well, although we could see any of Matheus Rossetto, Franco Ibarra, or Amar Sejdic claim the other place as options in an optimistically deep center midfield for Atlanta United.