Atlanta is a team that is used to success. Top conference finishes, MVPs, and silverware are the norm for the Five Stripes. Yet the 2019 season felt sluggish at times thanks to the loss of creativity provided by Miguel Almiron and tensions with new head coach Frank de Boer. After a bit of adjustment, the quality of Atlanta’s players continued to shine and the year ended with a third-place finish in MLS Cup, several broken records, and two new two new trophies (Campeones and US Open Cup). I don’t know about others, but I’d have to call this success.
On the fantasy side, Atlanta was…OK. Josef Martinez lead the team in points followed by Miles Robinson and Julian Gressel. Unfortunately, the two players who many hoped would replace Almiron’s creativity, Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco, did not crack 200 or 100 points respectively while many other players just earned average scores.
Tactics & Key Players
OVERHAUL! This is not your grandfather’s Atlanta United team. Many of the players who have been a key part of their success over the past few years are gone so the big question going into 2020 is how quickly can these new players come together and play the style of soccer that Frank de Boer is trying to cultivate? That style is controlling the game through possession be that through building form the back or pressure to create turnovers in key areas. We saw this some last year and we can see it in the early stages of the CCL tournament. It’s likely we’ll continue see Atlanta favor a 3-man backline and experiment with midfield combination to maximize their ability to get the ball Pity, Barco, and Martinez.
Keeper: No changes here. Guzan is still the main man at the back and a solid fantasy keeper option if the new defense holds.
Defense: A double whammy fantasy loss here. Jullian Gressel and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez are out and with them their fantasy bonus point generating ability. In their place we have Brooks Lennon in coming from RSL on the right and center backs Fernando Meza from Tijuana and Anton Walkes (could also play on the left) from Portsmouth. Robinson will be the veteran who is relied upon to keep everything together so the ability to pair with him will make or break the fantasy point generation.
Midfield: A list is easiest here. Out: Nagbe, Meram, Shea, and again Gressel. In their place: Matheus Rossetto from Athletico Paranaense, and Jake Mulraney from Hearts. Expect Rossetto to pair up in the center of the field beside either Larentowicz or Remedi at the start of the season.
Forwards: Joseph is your main guy here, but you can no longer rely on Villalba to be your backup as he’s been shipped out to Libertad. The new backup is Adam Jahn who has been bounding around MLS and USL since leaving San Jose in 2016.
With CCL and essentially a roster rebuild, it would be easy to expect Atlanta to struggle at the start of the fantasy season, but they have been given a roster gift and start the season playing Nashville and Cincinnati. The only way this schedule could be easier is if both games were at home. We’ll be able to learn a lot from these games, specifically how good is this new defense and who will replace Gressel as the primary service provider to Joseph. Overall, I still expect Joseph to be one of the top fantasy forwards and for Pity to break the 200 mark. Defense is the position that I have the most questions and I would not be surprised if they end up being better switcheroo options than starters.
We should see a version of the 3-4-3, at least at the start of the season, but a 4-3-3 is also possible.