These new faces alongside the foundation of players from the previous season provided Atlanta United with options and a little friendly competition.
“There’s going to be competition and it is what I like that I have,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. “I have lots of areas on the field that are full of competition. I think that this will improve both and that the best will play.”
So, what positions have some friendly competition? All of them.
In terms of defenders, Atlanta has options. Last season the 5-Stripes saw a solid backline between Miles Robinson and Alan Franco, but due to a red card suspension Franco wasn’t available to play in the home opener against Sporting Kansas City. In his place, George Campbell started and had an incredible performance with 88 percent pass accuracy, 10 clearances and 80 percent of duels won.
“I think that we have a really good roster that various positions on the field we have good competition,” Pineda said. “For example, today Alan Franco was suspended, and George Campbell was able to play well in the game and for me was spectacular.”
The defense also saw the addition of Gutman and Caleb Wiley to the roster, which created more combinations for the defense. Gutman and Wiley join Mikey Ambrose, Alex De John, Ronald Hernández, Brooks Lennon, and Bryce Washington.
The 5-Stripes saw more playing time from Hernández this preseason. Hernández started every game while Lennon was at the U.S. Men’s National Team Camp then recovering from a minor injury. Hernández also was a starter for the home opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, playing all 90 minutes and having a pass accuracy over 90 percent.
The midfield holds just as many options as the defense, if not more. Alonso joined the team earlier this year, adding a veteran touch to the midfield and creating the option between Alonso and Santiago Sosa as central midfielders. Sosa, who was recovering from a sports hernia surgery, didn’t participate in the preseason matches.
Rossetto, Mulraney and Moreno all take on the role of more attacking midfield. Moreno scoring a career high of nine goals and four assists last season. With the changes in roster and coach, Rossetto has expressed his interest in playing more of the attacking midfield role and assisting with goals whenever he can.
“Coach has changed our position a little, so I’m going to find myself in more of an offensive position than last season,” Rossetto said. “So hopefully I will be able to score some goals and get some assists as well.”
Almada, Sosa and Ibarra are all currently in Argentina awaiting their visa process to return to the team.
The options continue for forwards, Josef Martínez had his 100th regular season start on Sunday against SKC. Martínez, who has scored 100 goals for the club in all competitions, has made an incredible return since his injury in 2020. Joining Martínez are Luiz Araújo, Jackson Conway, Machop Chol and Tyler Wolff.
Since joining the club in August of 2021, Araújo has scored five club goals including one he scored on Sunday during the 2022 home opener. During the match, Araújo sustained a hamstring injury that will have him out for approximately four weeks.
Conway, Chol and Wolff are the three Homegrown options in the attack. All three forwards have seen more playing time in the preseason. Wolff started in the first match of the season and recorded his first career assist. Conway scored his first MLS goal last season against Nashville SC on July 8, 2021. Chol is currently recovering from a leg injury he received during a preseason match in México.
With several key pieces of the roster missing, it will be interesting to see how the team continues to connect and work together once everyone is back. With each addition the friendly competition provides coach Pineda several options and leaves 17s excited to see who will be in the starting eleven.
“Sincerely I see a complete squad,” Pineda said. “Through time, we will have the whole squad and we hope that this will allow us to continue and continue playing great soccer.”