Previous Year Recap
It is said that hindsight is 20/20 and if that’s the case we should avoid looking back as much as possible. After the unprecedented year we’ve endured, looking forward seems the far better option. That definitely rings true for Atlanta United. 2020 saw the Frank de Boer era come to a close and interim coach Stephen Glass take the reigns, stepping up from coaching Atlanta’s USL team. Perhaps the most impactful event however, was the loss of Josef Martinez in the first MLS match of the season to a season ending ACL injury. Without Josef, the team never seemed to have a solid direction going forward. They were knocked from the MLS is Back tournament early and while managing to pull some wins out of the bag, the season as a whole was disappointing.
When it comes to fantasy in 2020, Atlanta players were almost an avoid at all costs situation. There were some bright spots here and there, such as Brooks Lennon’s 20+ point week. These spots, sadly were not consistent enough to make Atlanta players as viable as many other options.
Fantasy Players to Watch
New team, who this? After the complete overhaul under the de Boer era, a new overhaul has been undertaken for 2021 in an attempt to return to the style of the team’s first, and successful years. Now with Gabriel Heinze heading up the coaching responsibilities, a plethora of new signings and a return to a more attacking style of play, Atlanta looks to regain the success it saw under Tata Martino. While not much information has come out of training camp as to formations or how the mix of old and new Atlanta players are meshing under Heinze and with each other, it will undoubtedly take some time for it to all come together. The level of talent is there, but will it translate to on-field and fantasy success?
Keeper: The veteran Brad Guzan is still the go to option in net and should be a solid fantasy option as long as the defense can do their part.
Defense: More changes here this year, as Franco Escobar and Fernando Meza have both been loaned out. Miles Robinson will again be the main man in the back line with George Bello looking to have a breakout year. Newcomers Alan Franco (late signing who has not played yet), Ronald Hernandez and Alex De John will join a returning Mikey Ambrose, Anton Walkes and George Campbell to vie for playing time.
Midfield: You guessed it, more changes here as well. Jeff Larentowicz and Eric Remedi are no longer with the club, so the shakeup in the middle continues. Returning are Barco, Damm, Hyndman, Lennon, Moreno, Mulraney, Rossetto and Adams (who just had a sports hernia surgery). Joining them will be newcomers Franco Ibarra and Santiago Sosa and homegrown signing Machop Chol.
Forwards: Josef is back and motivated. That could be very good for fantasy point production this year. Cubo Torres returns as well as homegrown players Jackson Conway and Tyler Wolff. Joining them will be veteran Lisandro Lopez and after spending last season with the USL side ATL UTD 2, Erik Lopez joins the first team.
Much like last year, an overhaul of the team combined with starting the season with CCL play could impact the results we see early on. With the first MLS match of the season being against rival Orlando City, who saw themselves have a great season in 2020, the emotions will be high and this could bode well for fantasy production. The return to an attacking style of play should make the midfield much more viable fantasy options this year and Josef should once again be one of your top fantasy forwards each week. Having Barco, Moreno and Damm available to link up with Josef in the buildup could be a very dangerous combination. The defense will have to perform better than last year to be good starting options for fantasy, or even switcheroo/autoroo options. All in all, expectations are high for Atlanta this year and the question becomes; Can the results match those expectations? Atlanta is a watch and see team to start the year with definite switcheroo candidates, but I would hold off on starting anyone not named Josef Martinez from this squad until we see more evidence.
Potential Starting XI
It’s expected Atlanta will open the season in a 4-3-3 attacking formation. A 3-4-2-1 is also a possibility under Heinze’s system. TBD = Franco