Atlanta United used 2016 to build their roster and technical staff ahead of their first Major League Soccer season. Building from the ground up, Atlanta didn’t waste any time bringing in some big name players to build their team around. They also announced Gerardo “Tata” Martino as the first head coach in club history.
Former English Premier League striker Kenwyne Jones will be front and center in the attack, surrounded by several talented young attackers in Hector “Tito” Villalba, Yamil Asad and Miguel Almiron. While Jones will be looked to for goals immediately, all three of the aforementioned attackers could prove to be a valuable source of fantasy points as their attack continues to gel.
Atlanta’s midfield is strengthened by a pair of international players with top flight experience in Chris McCann (EPL) and Kevin Kratz (Bundesliga). Look for these two to be leaned on mostly for their defensive attributes, but don’t be surprised if they pop up on the score sheet on occasion playing on a Tata Martino-led team.
The defensive unit is starting to take shape, with the recent acquisitions of US international Greg Garza, center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Tottenham youngster Anton Walkes to bolster their back line. They also acquired right back Tyrone Mears from the Seattle Sounders, who along with Michael Parkhurst and Zach Loyd bring valuable MLS experience to the group. Atlanta selected center back Miles Robinson with their first ever MLS SuperDraft pick, and while he may not be penciled in as a starter on opening day, he’s worth monitoring considering his ability to score goals on set pieces in addition to his defensive skill set.
Atlanta made waves recently by announcing the signing of US international goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Guzan will stay with current club Middlesbrough until July, with former Sporting KC goalkeeper Alec Kann likely to hold the position down until Guzan arrives.
Tata Martino is no stranger to high-tempo, attacking soccer. He has previously managed FC Barcelona, as well as both Paraguay and Argentina on the international stage. He favors a 4-3-3 setup and Atlanta’s lineup is trending in that direction as the season approaches. With a relatively strong backbone, Atlanta have the pieces in place to build out of the back and quickly transition to a multi-faceted attack. The initial outlook is promising, with the only drawback being a possible lack of chemistry that is to be expected from an expansion team.
Predicted starting XI
2017 Expectations and Conclusion
Team owner Arthur Blank, president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra have made it clear that they want to field a team that will be competitive from the get-go. Atlanta certainly have the talent to make a run at punching a ticket to the MLS Cup Playoffs in their first season if they can bring it all together. We can expect Kenwyne Jones to supply the goals, with Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron boasting the potential to make a big fantasy impact while flying somewhat under the radar heading into the season. Atlanta United FC have pieced together a strong roster for an expansion team. While the talent and upside is evident, it’s worth taking a wait-and-see approach for fantasy purposes as Atlanta United FC builds team chemistry early on. As they continue to gel and key fantasy players surface, exposure to the Atlanta attack should prove to be a viable strategy given the right match up.