Atlanta United FC on Friday announced another major signing ahead of their inaugural season in Major League Soccer, completing the transfer of winger Hector Villalba from Argentine club San Lorenzo.
A compact, explosive winger, the 21-year-old Villalba signed a Young Designated Player contract with Atlanta, making him the club's first DP.
“Hector is an exciting player, and one of the top young talents in Argentina,” said Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra in a statement provided by the team. “He is a powerful, pacey attacking player who can play out wide or up top. We really like his competitive and industrious style.
“…He has a high fitness capacity and an eye for goal,” Bocanegra added. “We think he will fit in perfectly within our system and within the MLS style of play.”
Atlanta confirmed that Villalba will spend the rest of 2016 on loan before joining the expansion side for the 2017 preseason. Mexican club Tijuana is reported to be his likely destination, but the team has not yet announced where he will be going.
Villalba was extensively linked to Atlanta in recent weeks, with San Lorenzo even announcing last week that they had sold the player to MLS. A native of Buenos Aires, Villalba is a lifelong fan of San Lorenzo who has spent his entire career up to this point at the club, coming up through the youth ranks before turning pro in 2012.
He’s made over 100 first team appearances across all competitions and scored 16 goals, and was a key part of the San Lorenzo team that won the 2014 Copa Libertadores, a group that also featured Montreal Impact playmaker Ignacio Piatti and New York Red Bulls attacker Gonzalo Veron. He has also won an Argentine Primera Division and Supercopa Argentina title in his four-year career.
“We’re very happy to have Hector signed with our club,” said Atlanta United president Darren Eales. “We’ve been monitoring him for a long time and really like his talent and pedigree. He’s a young DP who already has a lot of experience at the top level of the game and has exceptional potential to develop further. Hector is moving into the prime of his career, so it’s exciting for us and for the future of the league that he has chosen to join Atlanta United and play in MLS.”
Wih Villalba's signing, Atlanta now have seven players on their roster, with Kenwyne Jones, Andrew Carleton, Chris McCann, Jeffrey Otoo, Junior Burgos and Alexandros Tabakis already on the Georgia club's books.