Tenorio: Atlanta looking to address defensive needs, but on their timeline

Tata Martino - Atlanta United - reacts during 4-0 loss to Houston on Opening Day 2018

A 4-0 trouncing at the hands of the Houston Dynamo on Saturday will certainly lead to plenty of people around Atlanta mashing the panic button, but there is no such alarm among the decision makers in the Atlanta United front office.

It was a less-than-stellar debut for the 2018 version of Atlanta United, who impressed many with a playoff appearance in their expansion season last year and are expected to surpass those results this year. The loss to the Dynamo highlighted two major issues for this Atlanta team: the lack of a true No. 6 and a dearth of athleticism at center back. But Atlanta United’s front office was well aware of those issues before even getting on the plane to Houston, and one game hasn’t changed the timeline on looking to fill the voids. 

Atlanta knew they had a Carlos Carmona-sized hole in midfield as soon as they sold the 31-year-old Chilean to Colo-Colo in January. The search for a replacement started once the transfer was done.  

United have plenty of allocation money to make a move; they collected a hefty $750,000 in General Allocation Money when they sold Carmona, per a league source. In fact, Atlanta have enough allocation money to make multiple additions, and are in the market for reinforcements at both defensive midfield and center back, league sources said.

Atlanta’s defensive issues were on display in Houston. 

United’s lack of pace on the backline was exploited by the quickness of Houston’s attack. The problems at center back were amplified by Tata Martino’s choice to play Jeff Larentowicz next to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in the backline instead of in the defensive midfield. Gonzalez Pirez’s poor outing and subsequent injury only compounded those troubles. 

Atlanta have options within the roster to make tweaks in that spot. Captain Michael Parkhurst can easily step back into the starting XI at center back. And while second-year central defender Miles Robinson may not have the feet of his counterparts, he’s got the athleticism that can help mitigate his teammates’ weaknesses in that area. Even with those options, Atlanta continue to explore the possibility of a transfer at the position. 

The search for possible answers continues, but every indication is that Atlanta won’t rush a move or moves based solely on one result. The primary transfer window does not close until May 1, and the international break in late March also gives teams a chance to integrate new signings into the team should they pull the trigger this month.