Let me tell you a quick story about an Atlanta team. This particular team once struggled through their season all the way up until July. Then, a trade window opened, some moves were made, some handshakes happened, and that team suddenly went on to win the World Series. Thank you, Braves, for that quick inspirational tale.
At the date of this publication, Atlanta United has finalized two player moves that will go into effect the day the summer transfer window opens, which is July 7th. These were desperate moves for a team riddled with injuries, but Raúl Gudiño and Juan Purata have been welcomed with open arms. One brings vast experience in goal with a mentality of fighting his way back into the Mexican National Team conversation, while the other only has a small sample size of statistics and videotape to examine but who has a desire to fight for first-team minutes. On Wednesday, Atlanta United finalized the necessary moves to finish these deals when they acquired two international roster spots, one each from Nashville and Seattle.
However, as reported not long ago, Atlanta United is also linked to Colombian left winger Edwin Mosquera on a 4-year deal. They would be be buying out Mosquera from his current loan to Club Atlético Aldosivi in the Argentine Primera Division, where he’s currently doing a stint from Colombian side Independiente Medellín. As recently as yesterday it was reported that he was missing from Aldosivi training, so while credible, it isn’t likely we hear any official announcement for some time.
With the idea of Erik López returning from his loan completely unknown at this point, he will be key for at least some of the possibilities going forward. However, statements like this one tend to indicate some potential movement both in and out.
Gonzalo Pineda says that Atlanta United may not be done yet when it comes to transfers and are looking at other potential signings— J. Sam Jones (@J_SamJones) June 23, 2022
Confirmed that a potential U22 Initiative signing is something they're looking at pic.twitter.com/Ff5fPkB1hU
Without trying to determine the exact number of international roster spots at this point, one thing is certain: Erik López is one of the players occupying the current U-22 initiative spots, as are Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra. This leads us to the current conundrum of Erik López’s current loan out to Club Atlético Banfield, which ends in -checks notes- 3 days. The young forward has played 332 minutes in 11 total appearances since his loan began, and unfortunately progressed in no substantial manner. It seems most likely that the team has either
made a deal with the devil convinced Banfield to purchase Lopez or they have another possibility lined up. Either way, they likely take a financial loss on the 20 year old, but at this point he’s doing nothing for the club.
Which takes us to the other two U-22 slots, Sosa and Ibarra. One has been a vital starter to Atlanta United this season, while the other has been unable to string together any coherent starts or minutes due to a variety of health issues. As a matter of fact, one could argue that Santiago Sosa hasn’t been close to the player he portrayed during the first portion of the 2021 season. Franco Ibarra, on the other hand, has become a literal diamond in the rough who takes the role of enforcer as a badge of honor. He isn’t perfect and has a lot of maturing necessary to become a truly effective midfielder and defender, but he’s arguably safe from any sort of movement.
With Sosa still suffering from an unknown (not COVID) illness in addition to his lack of previous playing time, it seems less likely that he would suddenly be breaking past a newly fit Emerson Hyndman (who Gonzalo Pineda absolutely loves, by the way), Matheus Rossetto, Amar Sejdic, and the aforementioned Ibarra. The caveat here would be that Sosa clearly has the maturity to be the calming presence Atlanta needs in the midfield. But, with another injury report looming in reference to Brooks Lennon’s knee, it seems more and more likely that there are still some moves to be made, most likely on the wings and center back position. Unfortunately, the Atlanta United midfield is the only position they could really afford to transition anyone from.
So if you’re a betting person, an incoming U-22 signing is not only in the picture, but it seems incredibly likely when coupled with Pineda’s comment to the media on Thursday and the new rumor. Do both Erik López and Santiago Sosa go or does the midfielder get another shot at getting healthy and fighting back into the lineup? Does Ronaldo Cisneros get his loan extended? Is there another “out-of-left-field” Jake Mulraney transfer on the way? No matter what, let’s take a gander at some potential “would be cool to see” incoming options and pretend we make that Eales/Bocanegra money.
It’s your buddy @ATLPilgrim for a random midweek question. Let’s play Football Manager for a minute. If you’re the Atlanta United FO, (by our math) you now have 1 extra int’l spot even with the newcomers. Whether that’s right or wrong, who do you legit scout for the extra spot?— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) June 22, 2022
Disclaimer: I genuinely am not sure if Atlanta United has an extra international spot at this point. One toss up is whether or not Ronaldo Cisneros’ loan is extended, so it really could go either way. Regardless, we’ll take a look at both U-22 players and internationals as we examine who would be neat to see harbor a place in Atlanta. And if you haven’t checked the above Twitter post, the responses were all over the place. So are the below ones.
At this point, 20-year old Edwin Mosquera seems the most likely of any of the below options. However, we all know how transfer rumors go, and the current “agreement” is simply verbal at this point. What we do know is Mosquera is a fast-paced left winger who could add depth alongside Caleb Wiley and Andrew Gutman. He’s clearly going to need some fine-tuning, but if his available video indicates anything, his play style will fit in very well with Gonzalo Pineda’s version of Atlanta United. He’s had 14 appearances in the Argentine Copa de la Liga for the Primera Division side Aldosivi with 4 assists to his name thus far. Take a look for yourself:
Young Hoppe is more than a possibility at this point; he has been a rumor for quite some time now. Atlanta United scout Jonathan Spector even made the trip over to Mallorca, Spain to give him a look...and he didn’t play. And that’s the biggest issue with Matthew Hoppe right now: he is getting no minutes. His last notable game was against Real Sociedad on March 2 where only played 22 minutes. If we look at genuine time, though, he had two games in September of 2021 against Villareal and Real Madrid, the latter in which he played 59 minutes and provided the assist in Mallorca’s lone goal in a 6-1 loss. He’s also spent the majority of his USMNT time during the 2021 Gold Cup, where he provided an assist against Martinique and a goal against Jamaica.
One underrated note about Matthew Hoppe is his mental game, though. Similar to Dom Dwyer in his ability to simply be an annoyance and throw opposition into pure WTF mode, Hoppe could be served well at Atlanta United under the stewardship of Josef Martinez and Dwyer. This would likely mean, however, that Cisneros doesn’t hang around, but it could be a huge growth opportunity. Plus, he would be one of the U-22 spots so the financial implications would be minimal.
Yes, this one is highly unlikely. He’s included here because of his capability on both wings and throughout the midfield, which checks a lot of boxes for Atlanta United because of the current injury situation. He wouldn’t be U-22 eligible, and likely would be too high of a transfer to truly consider at this point BUT for the right offer Godoy Cruz might be swayed to come to the table because he could bring an insane profit. The high-pressing jack-of-all-trades has scored 25 goals in 71 appearances for the South American club. Anyway, that’s enough dreaming.
This one could be a hidden gem, especially if none of the aforementioned scenarios came through and suddenly Atlanta wound up with a too-good-to-be-true offer for Franco Ibarra. Geusens is a 20 year old who has come up through the Belgian First Division side KRC Genk and plays as a central midfielder. If a fusion of Hyndman and Ibarra could happen, Geusens would be the result. He’s an aggressive, tall (6’ 1”!!) midfielder with outstanding ball control and sniper long-ball passing ability. He’s also got an eye for goal, demonstrated by his 4 goals and 1 assist during the 2021 UEFA Youth League. Transfermarkt has his current value at a cool $275 thousand, so while a gamble, he seems to be developing nicely as an aggressive yet controlling midfielder in a market Atlanta United hasn’t really tapped. Did I mention he’s tall?
This López is primarily a product of River Plate’s academy and plays as a right back, which is suddenly a position of which Atlanta is in dire need . He’s currently on a two year loan to Godoy Cruz, so while this one may be a tough get, he would provide some options on the right side with Ronald Hernandez (and potentially Lennon) out for an extended period of time. Going back to 2020 he has made 48 appearances with 5 assists and 2 goals. He’s another U-22 potential, but at only 5’ 5” he wouldn’t be doing a lot for Atlanta’s set piece defense. His current value is hovering just above $1 million and he’s getting fairly solid playing time.
Juan José Cáceres
It’s so much tougher to scout defenders. It’s so much easier to find international stats on someone who is supposed to be scoring goals and does it well, but finding detailed info on duels won, aerial battles, tackles, etc. can be frustrating. Juan Cáceres is another Argentine right back (credit to our own Film_Fan for pointing this one out to me!) who is currently playing for Racing Club. He’s currently 22 (just barely) but would be an option in the same way Elías López would be: as a Hernandez/Lennon replacement. However, he would bring something to the right wing that hasn’t existed at Atlanta United since the days of Franco Escobar: a temper. The young defender didn’t stand down from Ricardo Centurion in a club brawl in 2019 (by all accounts I’ve read Ricardo was the aggressor). He’s also no stranger to yellows, even earning a double yellow/red in the 2021 Copa de la Liga. I don’t bring any of that up to sway the pendulum away from him, though; in fact, he would bring some youth and attitude to a position where Atlanta doesn’t currently have much. Plus, he reminds me very much of Franco Ibarra before he started to polish his game. And who wouldn’t love having another Juan Jose at the club after Purata arrived?
With the arrival of Juan Purata, there likely won’t be as great of a need for a center back. However, Purata is untested and Atlanta’s back line are only now coming off their best game of the season. Kerr Smith is a talented young back who just got sold to Aston Villa from Dundee United and could potentially take over at the position if some other moves are made this summer. However, a loan to buy wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility here, as his current minutes would be coming from Villa’s academy. His transfer fee from Dundee was also relatively low, so perhaps Atlanta gets a young defensive stud and Aston Villa has a chance to turn a quick profit? At 17, he’s already 6’ 1” and in his 5 Scottish Premiership matches of the season before the move, he was averaging 2.8 clearances with a 100% dribble rate while winning half of his duels. He isn’t perfect, but he’s promising.
So, where does Atlanta United go from here? Are any of these players in the cards, does the club completely move on from Erik Lopez, or do we see something more drastic? Suddenly another right back might be a bit more relevant depending on what happens with Brooks Lennon. There are (as always) so many possibilities, but it seems prudent that the Five Stripes would try and shore up one more spot before the summer transfer window is over. Let us know in the comments what you think, and if there is anyone in particular you’d think would be a good fit.