The Ups and Downs of Atlanta United's 2021 Season.
I have previously posted about Atlanta's bizarre season. The hopeful restart with new manager Gabriel Heinze, and the pivot that was necessary to both resurrect the season and keep their faithful fanbase ("the 17's) engaged. Rob Valentino's 'dive/save' helped keep the group of disgruntled players intact, and the hiring of manager Gonzalo Pineda had immediate positive impact. Today's loss at NYCFC was tough to watch but not completely unexpected, especially having to play an away match at Yankee Stadium. The size of the field had nothing to do with the Five Stripes' loss, but with that said, this nonsense of playing on a 68-yard wide field needs to be put to rest. Some notes to ponder for the 2022 season:
The rumor mill is in high gear regarding many Atlanta United players and the possible signing of Thiago Almada. If that signing comes to fruition, it would seem that Atlanta would sell Ezequiel Barco to the highest bidder, as they would need to open a designated player spot. The other players that may be sold include Miles Robinson and George Bello. This opens up big holes with what is today's usual starting lineup, but there is no doubt that the Atlanta front office has a plan in place for backfill.
Who else does Atlanta part ways with? One player most likely will be taken in the expansion draft, and then the thank you, but no thank you starts with the highly paid Jurgen Damm. Other players on the fence may include Brooks Lennon, Alex DeJohn, Erik Lopez, Cubo Torres, and Alec Kann. There is the college draft, in which Atlanta has done well selecting former player Julian Gressel and current defender, Miles Robinson, but I would suspect that Atlanta will have the flexibility to pick up some newcomers in the winter transfer market. The good news: Atlanta has brought in new players to reinforce the 'spine', including Santiago Sosa and Luiz Araujo. Alan Franco has proven himself to be a force as a center back, and Matheus Rossetto is a solid central midfielder.
Next year will have manager Gonzalo Pineda enjoying a preseason with his players - hopefully a start to a season that will have big expectations. Where will the additional players come from and what holes the front office decides to backfill will be interesting. A disappointing result today, but as late as August 15, no one around the league thought the Five Stripes had any chance of reaching the playoffs. For one, I am looking forward to what Darren Eales, Carlos Bocanegra, and Gonzalo Pineda come up with for the 2022 season.
That is my take, what is yours? @gary1123 justmytake.net
Photo credit: Dirty South Soccer