Back in training with fresh optimism that comes with a new season, Atlanta United are looking to avenge a hugely disappointed 2020 campaign that qualifies as the worst in the club's short history.
The biggest change was on the coaching staff, as Gabriel Heinze was appointed to be the club's next head coach, but they also made a few key additions to supplement their core of key players. And they're not done adding new faces just yet.
“I’m not going to comment on who we’re bringing in, but we’ll be looking to add one or two more (players)," VP & technical director Carlos Bocanegra told media on a virtual press conference Friday.
The latest report is around center back Lautaro Giannetti, a 27-year-old former Argentine youth international who is reportedly on the verge of joining Atlanta. He has spent his entire career with Velez Sarsfield, including when Heinze was the manager there. He would fill a glaring hole in defense after Fernando Meza departed on loan, likely slotting in next to Miles Robinson in central defense.
It would be the latest key addition from Argentina for the Five Stripes. Earlier this winter, the club acquired highly-rated 21-year-old central midfielder Santiago Sosa from River Plate as well as 19-year-old Franco Ibarra from Argentinos Juniors. The pair were identified to solve a lack of mobility in central midfield.
“I did speak about becoming a bit more athletic in the midfield and I think that’s something we addressed with Sosa and Ibarra," Bocanegra said. "That was a main focus, that and creating balance in the team.”
Their midfield group appears to be rounded out for the moment, with Sosa and Ibarra joining Emerson Hyndman, Mo Adams and Matheus Rossetto as well as more attack-minded Designated Players Ezequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno.
“We’ve got a decent midfield contingent and some depth," Bocanegra said. "This year we’ve got international tournaments going on, it’s going to be a congested schedule. We feel good about our depth and some different skill sets in the midfield. It’s helping to round out our team.”
Balance was a word Bocanegra often returned to.
Last season the attack cratered a bit without superstar forward Josef Martinez, who is expected to be fully fit and ready for the club's opening Concacaf Champions League match on April 6. There's no way to directly replace one of the league's best players, but Atlanta have added veteran forward Lisandro Lopez while rising Paraguayan Erik Lopez will be eligible this year after a bit of limbo in 2020.
Under Heinze, Atlanta believe they're on the way to returning to their vintage style.
“There’s not an exact science (to when his vision will be fully integrated), but from day one they’ve already started implementing their thoughts, tactics and ideas of how they want the guys to play, how to think," Bocanegra said.