Most say the most wonderful time of the year is Christmas. They are all liars. The most wonderful time of the year is when your favorite team’s league’s transfer window opens in the middle of the season and all hell breaks loose. Desperate teams make drastic moves while good teams ponder whether to tinker with a successful squad.
Atlanta United can’t really consider themselves a member of either of those categories. They’re somewhere fit snugly in between. It’s been a very good first half of the season for an expansion side. On the whole, it’s been an up and down 19 matches to kick off the franchise. Some exhilarating, some frustrating. As we stand, Atlanta are looking good for a playoff spot, sitting in 4th in the East, four points above the dreaded red playoff line with about half the season still remaining.
After a dead period of MLS transaction activity and a long of time for executives around the league to assess what their team needs, the league’s transfer window finally opens today. From July 10 through August 9 teams around the league are allowed to make trades and sign players from anywhere they wish. This will be the last free window to make changes to your roster heading into the homestretch of the season.
So, what will Darren, Carlos, Tata and Co. do in this window? Is the squad a finished product? Is there enough money to even make moves? We don’t have a ton of information to answer those questions, so let’s put on our fantasy GM hats and think about this rationally. Here are three things Atlanta United to do in this Summer Transfer Window.
Unload underutilized/high-priced role players
It’s no secret by now that Atlanta United have two players on their books who are being paid an extraordinary amount to be nothing more than fringe role players. It’s no coincidence that both Kenwyne Jones and Chris McCann were both signed before Tata Martino became the final choice as Atlanta manager. For all the great that team’s front office/technical staff has done, those two acquisitions just haven’t come off. It happens. There’s no point in blaming anyone for the lack of contributions of either player. Tata has a certain style of play and neither of them are good fits. This is just a byproduct of building a team from scratch.
Jones seems like the easiest player to find a new club for. He hasn’t been bad for Atlanta United. When he’s gotten the few chances that he has, he’s played okay. However, it just doesn’t make sense to keep trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s obvious that he doesn’t fit the current squad and its play style and that’s okay. With the emergence of Brandon Vazquez as a late-game option off the bench, it’s become obvious to everyone that Jones is even more of a surplus on this roster. He still has some game left in him. Surely there are clubs out there, even in MLS, who would love to have him. Even if it means trading him away for next to nothing, it’s worth doing. Getting his contract off the books ($390k base salary) is about future moves, not getting fair value in the same transaction.
All of the same can be said for McCann, except for the performance part. In the sparing minutes that he’s seen this season, the veteran of English soccer hasn’t looked very good at all, to put it nicely. Whether that’s just rust or being unfamiliar with the style of play, we don’t know. It makes sense to try and move him, however with his substantial salary ($540k base salary) it’s hard to see many teams willing to bring that on. There’s also the matter of Atlanta’s midfield depth. McCann is an injury away from being needed, so it’s likely he’ll be around for the remainder of the season as an emergency midfielder and possibly even defender.
Acquire a versatile defender for depth
Basically, Atlanta United were geniuses when they drafted Zach Loyd in the MLS Expansion Draft. Looking at the current roster right now, they could use someone exactly like the veteran. Unfortunately, it appears that Loyd isn’t yet fit enough or in the proper form to contribute as he’s yet to appear in the match day squad in league play.
Loyd has the ability to play all four of the back line positions. If somehow he regains his fitness and/or form then Atlanta would be set. But, that doesn’t look likely at this juncture. Going out and finding someone of his ilk would be beneficial to the depth of the defense, which has been adequate for lack of a better adjective. For a first-year unit, they’ve been okay. There have been some bumps in the road along the way, but they’ve proven they can get the job done more often than not.
Adding another defender who could play multiple positions and who is proven at the MLS level would help the depth tremendously. With a second half schedule jam packed thanks to the rescheduling of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium opening, Tata Martino will need more than just four or five capable defenders available to him the rest of the way.
Acquire a back-up for Yamil Asad
Despite the MLS Disciplinary Committee’s best efforts to prove otherwise, Yamil Asad isn’t human. The Velez Sarsfield loanee has played nearly every minute he’s been eligible this season. Taking up the left wing and bossing it for the majority of the season so far, Atlanta really hasn’t needed someone to back him up. But, things can happen during a long season. Injuries, suspensions, sudden dips in form. It’s possible that a back-up will be needed for Asad during the grueling stretch ahead.
Another aspect of the left wing spot that isn’t talked about much is the lack of a left-footed option. As long as Miguel Almiron is playing central, the club doesn’t have a naturally left-footed option to play on the wing. Brandon Vazquez, Julian Gressel and Tito Villalba are all capable of playing as inverted wingers. But, it would be nice to have a natural left foot over there if something happens to Asad.
If all else fails and there’s no such option out there to acquire, we can just bribe the U.S. government into allowing us to clone Yamil.