2020 Season Preview: Atlanta United

It was a busier offseason than many probably imagined for an Atlanta United team... that with a little bit of luck could have ended the 2019 season holding MLS Cup and completing a treble.

Head coach Frank de Boer, who deserves credit for turning an inauspicious start into a successful first year in charge, will face an even greater challenge in 2020. He will have to integrate a handful of new starters while still meeting the same lofty expectations of challenging for every trophy, including the Concacaf Champions League.

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 58 points (18W-12L-4D), 2nd in East / 3rd overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in Eastern Conf. Championship (vs. Toronto FC)
  • U.S. Open Cup: Winners (vs. Minnesota United)
  • Concacaf Champions League: Eliminated in QFs (vs. Monterrey)
  • Campeones Cup: Winners (vs. Club America)

Star players

  • Josef Martinez — Josef has done nothing but score goals since his arrival and he has set the bar so high that anything fewer than 20 goals would probably be considered a down season for the Venezuelan international. 
  • Ezequiel Barco — Now with two MLS seasons under his belt, the team needs the 20-year-old to be a game-breaker in 2020. He has the skills to do it, but he needs to stay healthy and produce regularly enough to prove to Frank de Boer that he's not just a luxury player.
  • Pity Martinez — After a rocky 2019 debut season and rumors of a potential transfer out of Atlanta, this shapes up to be the season of redemption for the most expensive transfer in MLS history. He has MVP-caliber talent and if he can show it, Atlanta fans could be in for another fun season.

Extratime Analysis: Atlanta United

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Fernando Meza — Although the center back arrived on the same day LGP left, he's more of a Michael Parkhurst in the way he plays the position. Anticipation, timing and positioning are his strengths and he can pass out of the back, but he'll need others to help cover the ground in behind.
  • IN: Brooks Lennon — This right back / right winger is taking the place of a fan favorite in Julian Gressel and the comparisons are sure to follow him throughout the year. Lennon's crossing and his overall impact on the attacking end will be under the microscope.
  • IN: Matheus Rossetto — The 23-year-old Brazilian midfielder with the silky skills could turn into the most important of the offseason signings if he can hit the ground running. His fellow teammates are already raving about him
  • OUT: Darlington Nagbe — The understated and unassuming Nagbe was a big part of Atlanta's success with his ability to keep possession, connect passes and move the team upfield. Now he'll be doing all that in Columbus.
  • OUT: Julian Gressel — He came in as a draft pick and flourished as a regular and versatile starter who always found a way to impact a game. His skill, work rate and spirit will be tough to replace after his trade to D.C. United, and his contributions in the attack will especially be missed.
  • OUT: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez — The fiery and outspoken LGP was one of the founding pieces of a new club in a city which he grew to love. Never spending more than three seasons in any one team during his career, the timing of the move to Tijuana probably made sense given the emergence of center back Miles Robinson.  

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan, Alec Kann, Brendan Moore
  • Defenders (8): George Bello, George Campbell, Edgar Castillo, Franco Escobar, Brooks Lennon, Fernando Meza, Miles Robinson, Anton Walkes
  • Midfielders (10): Mo Adams, Ezequiel Barco, Manuel Castro, Luiz Fernando, Emerson Hyndman, Jeff Larentowicz, Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez, Jake Mulraney, Eric Remedi, Matheus Rossetto
  • Forwards (2): Adam Jahn, Josef Martinez

Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses

  • Strength: They’ve got two Best XI players – including the best per-90 goalscorer in league history (min: 50 games) – and a USMNT goalkeeper. They’ve also got a pair of $15 million attackers, and veteran South Americans with winning pedigrees elsewhere up the spine. And yeah… they win. Three trophies in the past two years is legit.
  • Weakness: Most of the guys who played major parts in winning those three trophies are gone, including (by our count) three of last year’s top five players on the roster. There has been something close to an overhaul over the past 12 months, and it remains to be seen if the endpoint of such a movement compares favorably to what preceded it.

Predictions

  • Ben Baer: 1st in East
  • Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 2nd in East
  • Calen Carr: 2nd in East
  • Charlie Davies: 5th in East
  • Matt Doyle: 2nd in East
  • Kristian Jack (TSN): 1st in East
  • Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 2nd in East
Series: