ATLANTA – Being described as a “big clog” by a teammate may not be anyone’s idea of flattering, but for defensive midfielder Carlos Carmona, it means he’s doing his job at the heart of the Atlanta United FC lineup.
While the expansion team’s attacking play has been getting most of the early buzz, if Atlanta are victorious at home against D.C. United this Sunday (3 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in the US; MLS LIVE in Canada), it’ll be in large part because of the unsung work Carmona has done keeping playmakers like D.C’s Luciano Acosta from owning the middle of the park.
“Carlos does a lot of dirty work,” said Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst. “He’s a vital part of the team.”
“As a defensive midfielder he does pretty much everything that we ask him to,” added manager Tata Martino “He also gives character to our team which is really important at that position.”
The 30-year old Chilean international came to Atlanta from Serie A, making 155 appearances at Atalanta and Reggina, and 47 international caps with La Roja. His playing time was limited during his last two seasons at Atalanta, but he’s found his stride again in MLS after arriving on a free transfer.
“Atlanta has a strong team, a great training facility, and the fans have been supportive,” Carmona told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s definitely been a good experience so far and I’m happy to be in Atlanta.”
Carmona did get of to something of a rocky start, getting sent off in Atlanta’s season opener. The resulting one-game suspension plus his national team obligations with Chile meant that he missed Atlanta’s big win over Minnesota on March 12 and played a limited role in a draw at Seattle on March 31. But he’s now played every minute in the month of April.
Defensively, Carmona provides cover for the center back pairing of Parkhurst and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, breaking up the opponent’s possession before they can coalesce into an attack. He does so thanks to his athletic ability and the tactical awareness, along with heavy dose of intimidation.
“He’s very aggressive, especially in his tackling, and he puts a little bit of fear into usually their attacking and two-way midfielders,” said Parkhurst.
Once Carmona has helped win the ball, it’s his job to keep it, acting as an outlet for his defenders and his teammates ahead of him.
“Offensively, he plays simple and that’s what we need him to do,” Parkhurst said of Carmona, who has racked up an impressive 88.6 percent completion rate thus far. “He gets the balls to the playmaker and covers a ton of ground while doing all that.”
For Martino, Carmona has the added benefit of allowing him more flexibility in the midfield.
“Sometimes when we want to have more of an attacking midfield we’ll pair of those guys with Julian [Gressel], but at other times when we want to be more balanced it’s good to have both Jeff [Larentowicz] and Carlos in at the same time,” said Martino.
Going forward, Carmona thinks his game will only improve as he gets more comfortable to his new surroundings.
“The league is different than Italy, for sure, but I’m adjusting the best way that I can,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent adjusted yet, but I’m getting more adjusted as the team goes on.”