Photo courtesy of MLS
After a disappointing 2020 campaign, Atlanta United have continued a busy offseason by announcing the recent signings of forward Lisandro Lopez, midfielder Santiago Sosa (pictured above), right back Ronald Hernandez, and defensive midfielder Franco Ibarra. Another transfer for center back Lautaro Giannetti is widely reported as all but complete, with the player no longer training with current club Velez Sarsfield in anticipation of a move to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Fans of United have reason to be excited about these new additions, as Atlanta United’s front office staff have a reputation for finding and nurturing South American talent. Players such as Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, and former MVP and current King of Atlanta Josef Martinez have made huge strides with the 5 stripes. Let’s take a closer look at each of these signings and what they bring to the table as United look to bounce back to championship form after a difficult 2020 season.
Lisandro Lopez – Forward
Atlanta’s most experienced offseason acquisition, Lopez was likely brought in simply as cover for Josef Martinez as he plots his return from an ACL tear suffered against Nashville at the very beginning of last season. Lopez brings a wealth of experience and should be a great addition to mentor the younger South American players. The Argentine has won trophies at a number of different clubs, including several league titles in Portugal with FC Porto. Despite this wealth of experience, there are questions about how much gas is left in the tank for the well-traveled forward.
Santiago Sosa – Midfield
United’s marquee signing thus far is without question Argentinian midfielder Santiago Sosa. Sosa came up through the ranks of the academy at fabled Buenos Aires side River Plate. After appearances for River’s youth teams, Sosa was promoted to the first team and also featured for Argentina’s U-20 side that competed at the 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland. Sosa was heavily linked with a move to English Premier League side Everton before the move fell apart. Sosa’s greatest strengths are his range of passing, movement, and ability to dictate the pace of games. He should be a strong contender for a starting role in Atlanta United’s midfield when the season begins April 6th with a CONCACAF Champions League visit to L.D. Alajuelense.
Ronald Hernandez – Right Back
Hernandez came to Atlanta on a season-long loan through the club’s partnership with Scottish Premier League club Aberdeen. With the departure of Franco Escobar to Newell’s Old Boys, Hernandez should have a real shot at making the right back role his own for the 2021 season. Hernandez has previously played for Stabaek in Norway and has earned 17 caps with the Venezuelan national team, where he is a teammate of United club legend Josef Martinez. According to stats and analytics database www.whoscored.com, Hernandez’s greatest strengths are his passing and tackling, with his crossing having the greatest room for improvement.
Franco Ibarra – Midfield
Yet another young Argentinian, Ibarra plays a primarily defensive role in the midfield and has a very aggressive playstyle; he always seems to be seeking the ball. Ibarra came up through the Argentinos Juniors academy before making his full professional debut in 2019. Although his aggression and ball-hawking mentality can cause the odd mistake (and cards to boot), Ibarra should add some needed grit and steel to the United midfield. He will likely end up playing in front of the center backs, a part of new United manager Gabriel Heinze’s preferred system.
Lautaro Gianetti – Center Back
At the time of writing, Gianetti’s much talked about move from Velez Sarsfield to Atlanta has not been made official. Should this signing go through, Gianetti would represent a huge improvement to United’s squad depth after the departure of Fernando Meza. United manager Gabriel Heinze has worked closely with Gianetti at Velez Sarsfield and clearly understands his strengths and weaknesses and how he would fit into Heinze’s preferred system. Gianetti would compete with Miles Robinson for a starting spot in a back 3 or likely play beside him if Heinze opts for a 4-3-3 system.