I had a quick galaxy brain moment this week where I wondered whether Atlanta United’s depth going into 2018 was maybe actually worse than the 2017 version of the team. And seeing as how many had identified this as a 2017 weakness that needed bolstering in 2018, it seemed like a something I might want to write a quick post about, even though we’re still waiting on a potential Carlos Carmona replacement.
I did some quick back-of-the-envelop work to figure out if this hunch was correct. I wanted to get a sense of the collective game experience/form (minutes) that was to be hanging out on the bench in 2018 compared to that of the expansion team in 2017. When you look at the bench players only (and with near perfect hindsight), and limit it to the top 14 non-starters (to allow for loans and whatever else) this is what you see in 2017 (ah, Bobby Dodd):
There are some names in here. Veteran Presents like Jacob Peterson, Kenwyne Jones, Tyrone Mears, and Zach Loyd, a handy and versatile Mark Bloom, and then a bunch of guys who had either struggled for minutes (including another veteran in Kevin Kratz), or players were coming out of college. If we repeat that with a snapshot of where the 2018 bench is right now, we get this:
I would suggest this is perhaps lighter in name than the 2017 depth, but you’ve got a slight uptick in MLS and USL minutes (to the extent that you value those). It’s a younger bench with prospects like Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, and Robinson slotting in (at the moment at least), and half-proven players like Julian Gressel and Romario Williams who can solidify their rises in 2018. The veteran outfielders here are Chris McCann, Sal Zizzo, and Kratz (but that’s really it). It’s also lighter in terms of total professional minutes, so there is definitely some risk hanging out here.
But if we cheat further for a second and move Jeff Larentowicz to the bench because of #newplayerwatch, the numbers come out a little better, and the #invaluableMLSexperience starts to really show:
So I wasn’t completely nuts, but I was probably overreacting. Like many of our collective hopes and fears, a replacement for Carmona would go a long way to pacifying things, not only for the quality of whatever player is ultimately brought in, but the knock-on effect to the team’s experience in depth as we launch forward into an exciting 2018. Would I feel better if Yamil Asad was on the bench? Yes, but it is what it is.
Further, I should acknowledge that heading into 2017, we didn’t know who would would start and who would come off the bench. I remember thinking McCann might very well be a regular center mid with Larentowicz spelling him, and I don’t think many expected the impressive 2017 starter/bench minutes from Gressel. Some were certain Josef Martinez was a left sided “winger.” That’s just sort of the nature of where we are in the pre-season. As with all MLS teams, the combination of injuries and a restrictive salary cap environment might have an outsized impact on the outcomes of Atlanta United’s 2nd season should things go south, but that will always be the case. Here’s to youth.