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Taking stock of Atlanta United’s midfield

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Which midfielders are trending up, down as the regular season begins.

@ATLUTD

The regular season is finally here, and we’ve all had 4 preseason games from which to digest and analyze performances. In Part 2, we will look at the midfielders to see whose stock is rising or falling.

NOTE: Chris Goslin and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu are not being evaluated in this piece due to a lack of sample size.

Stock on decline

Carlos Carmona, CDM – Carmona’s preseason has been shaky, albeit not to do with his play on the field. His preseason has been tattered with small injuries and bureaucratic issues that have prevented him from full participation in preseason matches. A lot like Zach Lloyd, the problems he’s had aren’t a result of his play, but it’s pushed his stock down to the point where it looks likely that he will start the season coming off the bench. He will be one of Atlanta’s key players this season though, as he mans the most vital position on the pitch at CDM.

Harrison Heath, CM – Heath is a decent shot by the front office staff to bring in a young player (20 years old) with potential to develop. Based on his preseason form though, he has a lot to work on before he forces his way into the gameday squad on a regular basis.

Jacob Peterson, RM – Peterson appears to be slipping down Tata Martino’s pecking order as Andrew Carleton continues to impress. It’s good that there’s competition between the two for a role as an impact sub to start the season, but I, for one, would be frustrated if Peterson is the one coming into the game over Carleton. I’d rather those minutes go to a young, promising player than someone who is in the twilight of his career and isn’t discernibly better.

Holding steady

Jeff Larentowicz, CDM – Larentowicz has been exactly the player he was billed to be through preseason – a steady hand in midfield who protects the gap between midfield and the back lines. I have full confidence that the 33-year old veteran will provide serviceable playing time when called upon this season.

Kevin Kratz, CM – Kevin Kratz is the kind of player every MLS team can use, except the Philadelphia Union, apparently. Atlanta traded essentially nothing to bring in the 30-year old German, and he’s looked solid in preseason in a variety of roles. He’s a utility man that can fill roles all over midfield.

Chris McCann, CM – McCann is barely holding onto his spot in this category as Julian Gressel has emerged as an option to compete for this role. McCann, one of the few players who signed with Atlanta prior to the appointment of Martino, will need to adapt his game to suit Martino’s style. But McCann is versatile (can play CDM, CM, or LB) and is left-footed, which will help him find his way into the starting XI more often than not.

Stock on the rise

Miguel Almiron, CM/CAM – Almiron has been everything he was cracked up to be. Every time he’s played, he looks like the best player on the pitch. He’s one of the top talents in the league, and it’s hard to imagine his stock falling this year barring injury (which is a legit concern). If he stays healthy for most of the season, it’s hard to imagine him not being in the conversation for MVP (although I don’t think he’ll score enough goals to win it). He’s simply a treat to watch.

Andrew Carleton, RM/LM – Carleton seems to be the most-talked-about player in the squad this preseason, and for good reason. His performances haven’t been flawless, and his minutes vs. Chattanooga were over-inflated considering the competition and that he came on with fresh legs in the second half. But the match vs. Charleston Battery was the real eye-opener. He started the game and looked like the best player on the pitch. Actually, he didn’t just look like the best player, he looked a class above everyone else.

Julian Gressel, CM/CAM – Like Carleton vs. Charleston, Gressel opened eyes the game previous against Seattle. Against the Sounders, Gressel displayed tremendous composure, tactical awareness and grit en route to a 4-2 win for Atlanta. Gressel earned a penalty and combined very well with Tito Villalba. The German international was a bit of an enigma coming from the college ranks (Providence), but the No. 8 overall pick could very well be the steal of the draft.