Image courtesy of MLS, edited by Will Hopkins
Atlanta United is just four years removed from their MLS debut and two years removed from their MLS Cup championship. Despite the recency of such successful times, ATLUTD looks a lot different now than during those times. No, I am not talking about the downgraded jerseys, which are a whole other subject. There have been coaching changes, as well, but more so than anything else, I am referring to the heavy roster turnover in such a short time.
Since day one, Striker Josef Martinez has been the center of attention for Atlanta United, which is still very much the case. Coming off of an ACL injury that he sustained at the very beginning of last season, Josef has been rehabbing and should be an integral part of the squad, and the league for that matter, per usual. Halfway through Atlanta’s inaugural year, they found their number one keeper in Brad Guzan (He’s big, he’s bald, he’s a…hopefully you know the rest), and he too is still a crucial part of the club. After those two, however, the team now is almost unrecognizable compared to the original roster.
It is not rare to see quick roster turnover in Major League Soccer, but for Atlanta United, the changes cannot be understated. Four starters from the first MLS match from last season will not be a part of the team this year, whether due to sale or loan. Based on last year’s struggles, this could be seen as a good thing, but unfortunately, two of those four, Franco Escobar and Eric Remedi, were goalscorers in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoff run. In addition to those two, seven more players from the starting eleven from the MLS Cup are no longer part of the team. United supporters want to see their club get back to their style and winning ways from a couple of years ago, but with so much of that squad gone, they may not get what they are looking for quite yet.
With Darren Eales’ early success in running this club, there should not be much worry about his rebuild of Atlanta United this offseason. There are many new names, but the biggest takeaway is that no matter how good they are, it will probably take time for this club to return to its great heights. Soccer is a sport of collaboration and communication, both offensively and defensively. The current roster does not have high levels of chemistry, but once they learn how to play with one another, the sky is the limit. After all, it only took two years for this expansion team to reach levels of glory that the rest of the city has only dreamed of for the last 25 years.