Leandro Gonzalez Pirez
Games Played: 42 appearances, 42 starts (All competitions)
What went right this season?
He was lucky to be part of a good Atlanta United defense, mostly thanks to the amazing play of Defender of the Year nominee Miles Robinson. While the entire team did struggle mightily in the beginning - something that should’ve been expected with a new manager implementing new ideas - eventually it went on a run and turned into one of the best defenses in MLS for a stretch.
What does he need to improve on?
After having narrowly missed being named as a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year in each of his first two seasons, Gonzalez Pirez took a big step back. He was more emotional than usual, picking up stupid yellow cards and putting the team in danger in many occasions. He clearly didn’t handle the managerial change very well but as the season went on eventually things improved. (Or, the team started winning and we barely noticed his mistakes?)
Gonzalez Pirez should start next season in better form since now he knows what the coaching staff expects of him. With Michael Parkhurst retiring there’s a big hole in leadership on the defensive side, and I hope he can take a step forward and becomes more of a levelheaded leader. (But we all know that’s probably not going to happen - he seems like the kind of guy who tells you he’s going to change his ways but only does for a couple of weeks and then goes back to doing whatever he wants.)
What role will he play in 2020?
Even though he’s flirted with a transfer before, Gonzalez Pirez has always maintained that he’s happy in Atlanta. He’s said to be in the final year of his contract with an option for one more year. But even after a down year, he’s still young and better than most defenders in the league (not necessarily a compliment). I would still expect him to be starting next to Miles Robinson next year, unless the team gets a good offer for him and buys another starting center back.
Overall Player Grade: C+