Author: Sam Stejskal | Cover illustration by Duane Tomaszewski
Atlanta United FC are ready for their close-up.
Nearly three years after it was announced that they’d join MLS, Atlanta will finally make their competitive debut in 2017. With former Argentina and Barcelona manager Gerardo 'Tata' Martino, a trio of high-priced South American Designated Players and experienced Americans like Michael Parkhurst, Greg Garza and Brad Guzan (arriving in the summer) on board, expectations are sky high for the first-year club, who are aiming to become just the third expansion team in MLS history to make the playoffs in Year 1. Regardless of how they fare on the field, it will be a historic season for Atlanta, who have already set a record for expansion clubs with nearly 30,000 season tickets sold.
Key Offseason Transactions
|KEY PLAYERS IN:||KEY PLAYERS OUT:|
|Miguel Almiron (M)
Carlos Carmona (M)
Greg Garza (D)
Brad Guzan (GK)
Josef Martinez (F)
Michael Parkhurst (D)
Player to watch: Miguel Almiron
The Paraguayan international has plenty of versatility, but he’ll likely be the guy tasked with making things go in the central midfield for Atlanta. The 23-year-old Almiron will be relied on to find fellow Designated Players Josef Martinez and Hector Villalba on the flanks, while also trying to facilitate through the middle. If he’s good, Atlanta will be fun to watch in the attack.
How they'll play
HEAD COACH - GERARDO "TATA" MARTINO
Atlanta will likely lineup in a 4-3-3. Expect a lot of pressing when they’re defending, and a lot of direct, fast-paced soccer when they’re on the ball.
Project Starting XI
4-3-3, right to left: Alec Kann (GK) — Tyrone Mears (D), Michael Parkhurst (D), Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (D), Greg Garza (D) — Carlos Carmona (M), Chris McCann (M), Miguel Almiron (M) — Hector Villalba (F), Josef Martinez (F), Kenwyne Jones (F)
7th in Eastern Conference. This team has plenty of talent, but the inevitable bumps in the road that befall every expansion team – construction of an identity, the feeling out period among players, etc. – will prevent them from sneaking into the playoffs. They’ll be close, but, similar to Orlando in 2015, will fall just short of the finish line.