Atlanta United are sitting on a pile of allocation money, but the league leaders will be careful about how they spend it.
Though they made high-priced acquisitions this winter in Ezequiel Barco and Darlington Nagbe, the Five Stripes opened $1.5 million in budget space – $750,000 in General Allocation Money and $750,000 in salary – when they sold midfielder Carlos Carmona to Chilean club Colo-Colo at the end of January.
Given Carmona’s importance to the club in 2017, most assumed Atlanta would quickly use that space to replace the defensive midfielder. And while they flirted with veteran Cameroonian Stephane Mbia in the spring, they ended up standing pat at the close of the Primary Transfer Window earlier this month.
Atlanta can afford to patient. The club are currently atop the MLS standings with an 8-2-1 record and are tied with the New York Red Bulls – whom they'll host on Sunday (7 pm ET; FS1, TSN2 — Full TV & streaming info) – for the best goal difference in the league. They’re naturally happy with their current roster, and plan to be picky with any potential additions when the secondary trade and transfer window opens in July.
“If you bring someone in you want to make sure that they’re a good player, they fit our player profile, fit our style of play and then you want to make sure that, with a good group here, that someone coming into the dressing room or somebody coming into the chemistry is going to affect it in a positive way,” Atlanta technical director Carlos Bocanegra told MLSsoccer.com in a recent phone interview.
“It’s a delicate situation. It’s like the winter transfer window overseas, bringing somebody in midseason, you’ve got to make sure you get it right. We’re actively looking, we’re actively looking to add depth and competition at all spots, so if something comes up for us to make a move here in the summer for July then we’ll pull the trigger, but we want it to be right person on all fronts, on the field and off the field.”
Of course, Atlanta will likely also deal with incoming transfer offers over the summer. MLSsoccer.com reported last November that the club declined offers from European clubs of between $20 and $25 million for Miguel Almiron and $10 million for Josef Martinez last year. With Almiron looking like an MVP frontrunner and Martinez tied for the MLS lead with eight goals, both players will probably draw significant transfer interest once again this year.
Atlanta have indicated in the past that selling players is a part of their long-term strategy. Determining exactly when to move a star like Almiron or Martinez will be tricky, however. The biggest offers typically come when European teams are out of season in the summer. Any transfer fee would likely be greatest then, but Atlanta selling a player in the middle of the MLS season would hurt the club’s trophy chances.
Bocanegra, club president Darren Eales and the rest of the club’s brass will have to weigh all those factors if they receive offers for Almiron, Martinez or anyone else on their roster this summer.
“For us, the overarching theme is we’re taking each individual case as it comes. Everything’s on a case-by-case basis,” Bocanegra said. “But one of the things from ourselves that we’ve said from the beginning was we always wanted to be competitive and fighting for titles. We’ve got to take all of that into account and we’ve got to weigh up every situation.”