As the 2018 MLS season closes in, we will run through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we look at all Atlanta United‘s key transfers and what it could mean for them in their second MLS campaign…
Atlanta United’s debut MLS season was undoubtedly a success. The Five Stripes grew into one of the most exciting teams the league has ever seen but more importantly, they created a passionate and vibrant soccer culture in the city of Atlanta. They set records for the highest average attendance per game as well as the total season attendance record. Mercedes-Benz Stadium won’t be an easy place for anyone to visit again in 2018. Atlanta’s aim will be to ensure they build on an excellent debut campaign by once again making the playoffs, but with the expectation to go further than the Knockout Round this time around…
Ezequiel Barco: The biggest signing of the MLS offseason so far. The 18-year-old Argentine winger joins Atlanta from Independiente as the most expensive signing in MLS history at around $15 million. His capture has turned heads across the league and surely in Europe too, given how highly regarded he is. This is not the sort of signing MLS clubs make. Barco is an agile, creative midfielder who can play wide or behind the striker. He is rapid with and without the ball and will undoubtedly get Atlanta fans off their feet. The prospect of Barco, Almiron and Martinez together will strike fear into any opponent and his signing should only increase the number of chances the Five Stripes create.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) January 19, 2018
Darlington Nagbe: Not only have Atlanta improved their attacking threat by adding Barco, but they’ve acquired one of the league’s most consistent and dangerous playmakers in Nagbe. Atlanta technical director Carlos Bocanegra said he was their top target this offseason and they wasted no time in making a blockbuster trade with Portland back in December. Nagbe is entering his eighth consecutive MLS season and first away from Portland. If he can settle into his new surroundings quickly, he’ll ensure Atlanta are one of the league’s top contenders, as they plan to be.
Franco Escobar: Atlanta have also focused on their backline this offseason and the addition of Franco Escobar is important as the young Argentine should slot straight into the starting lineup. He will be versatile enough to play as part of a three-man defensive setup, or alternatively as a right-back in a more traditional four-man defence. He arrives from Newell’s Old Boys where he broke through three years ago and will be expecting to develop well under the guidance of Tata Martino.
Yamil Asad: The loss of Asad is significant for Atlanta but it might not be felt if Nagbe and Barco hit the ground running in the way that is expected of them. Asad was on loan for the 2017 season from Velez Sarsfield and despite Atlanta’s best efforts to agree a deal that would bring him back for 2018 and beyond, Asad has decided to move on. The club couldn’t agree a suitable deal with the midfielder and his rights are now being sold by the club. He scored seven goals and added 13 assists in 2017 and so those numbers will need to be replaced by the likes of Nagbe and Barco.
— MLSGB (@MLSGB_) February 6, 2018
Carlos Carmona: He started 31 games last season but Carmona won’t be returning to the Atlanta midfield for the 2018 season. The club agreed to sell the experienced Chilean to Colo-Colo after weeks of speculation, with personal reasons the main factor in the end. His loss leaves a hole in the defensive midfield spot for Atlanta, with Jeff Larentowicz the only established name ready to play the position. Expect additions in that area before the season begins.
Tyrone Mears: He might have only played in 21 of the 34 regular season games last season but the loss of Mears will have removed some key experience from the Atlanta dressing room. The English defender scored one goal and added one assist last season and has now joined Minnesota after the Five Stripes declined his option for 2018. He might not be the biggest miss on the field but his absence might well be felt off of it.