It’s been a long and tiresome season full of negativity and pessimism. So, it’s really nice to be able to write about something fun and positive. A new Atlanta United legend was born on September 10, 2022. Thy name is Juan Jose Sanchez Purata.
Better known as Juanjo, the little-talked about loan signing was brought in as emergency cover due to a rash of injuries. No one expected the defender to offer much other than an needed body to eat up minutes. A couple of months later and the Mexican has won himself a spot in the hearts of the Atlanta United faithful for the rest of time. Yes, as hyperbolic as it may sound, no matter what the future holds for Purata at this club, you can’t pretend that we won’t remember his exploits many, many years from now. That is the very definition of a legend.
Shoutout to @MLS_PR for helping with research on the following historical stat:— Johannes Schneider (@jocoolwu) September 11, 2022
Juanjo Purata is believed to be only the 2ND FULL-TIME DEFENDER ever to score a hat trick in #MLS. The only other time came on 9/21/97(!) by LA Galaxy’s Jose Vasquez. #ATLUTD #UniteAndConquer
Disregarding the historic hat trick scored in the win over Toronto, Purata’s impact on the team since arrival has been undeniable. While not the most talented defensive player to ever grace the sport, what he lacks in skill he makes up for with work rate, spirit, and leadership. He has helped stabilize a backline that was completely and utterly lost at midseason. He’s been injected into the side and hasn’t left since earning his spot. But it’s in the attacking box where he has completely taken the fan base by storm. In just 12 total starts, he’s managed six aerial goals to catapult himself among the team’s leading scorers for the season. As depressing as that may be for the story of the team’s attacking prowess, for him individually it’s an astonishing feat.
There’s a saying in soccer “don’t fall in love with loan players”. There’s really no telling how long Purata’s stay at the club will be but you can bet most Atlanta fans will be begging for the brass to find a way to bring him back. While it’s important to put Purata’s ceiling into context as a fringe starter and team leader type of player, it’s crucial for every roster to have these types of players. So while it may seem a bit reactionary to label the defender as a vital addition to the team since in the grand scheme of the season he’s changed very little, he’s proven he has the intangibles to be an asset should he be for a long period of time.
No matter what the future holds we’ll always have this unbelievable stretch of attacking production from the unlikeliest of sources and more importantly this legendary night in which Juanjo Purata notched a hat trick as a center back. Thank you, Juanjo, for providing us with a great memory in what has been a very trying season.