Atlanta United today announced it has signed defender Leandro González Pirez from Club Estudiantes de La Plata of Argentina’s Primera División as a Discovery Signing. Signed with Targeted Allocation Money, Pirez will join the team upon receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and P-1 Visa.
“We’re happy to have secured another player in his prime who has experience playing in his top domestic league,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. “As we continue to build and assess our roster, we believe Leandro identifies an area of need for our club and we look forward to him making a difference in 2017 and beyond.”
Pirez, 24, joins Atlanta with more than 100 professional appearances, a majority of which were spent in the Argentine top flight. The Buenos Aires native has played domestically for River Plate, Tigre and Estudiantes, while making loan stops with Arsenal de Sarandí and Belgian Pro League club Gent. Pirez began his career with his hometown club River Plate at the youth level and made his senior team debut in 2011 at 19 years old. During the 2012-13 season, he made 24 appearances and scored his first professional goal against Racing Club (April 7). Pirez made 35 appearances with the club across all competitions before going on loan with Gent for the 2013-14 season.
While in Belgium, Pirez featured eight times before returning to Argentina on loan with Arsenal de Sarandí. There he made 18 total appearances, 13 in league play and five in the 2014 Copa Libertadores where Arsenal reached the quarterfinals of the knockout stage. Pirez then joined Tigre on a free transfer for the 2015 season and immediately became a vital member of the Matadores’ backline, starting in 29 of the club’s 30 matches while contributing two goals. Each goal opened the scoring in consecutive wins against Estudiantes (April 14) and CA Huracán (April 18).
“I’m very excited to have Leandro join us in Atlanta,” Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino said. “He fits in well with our style of play and has the ability to make a difference in MLS.”
Pirez transferred to Estudiantes La Plata ahead of the 2016 season and made 10 appearances. He helped lead them to a second place finish in the league table, which qualified the club for a spot in the 2017 Copa Libertadores group stage. Pirez started the first three games of the 2016-17 season, playing all 90 minutes in three consecutive wins for Estudiantes.
Pirez has also played at the U-17, U-20 and U-22 levels of the Argentina Youth National Team. He started all four matches in the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria and scored against Colombia in a 3-2 loss in the round of 16 (Nov. 4). Pirez represented Argentina in the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia where he started all five matches. Later in 2011 Pirez played with the U-22’s in the Pan American games where he made four starts and helped Argentina reach the finals and earn a silver medal. He also played in the 2011 South American U-20 Championship in Peru where Argentina finished in third place.
Pirez joins countrymen Héctor “Tito” Villalba, 22, and Yamil Asad, 22, as the third Argentine-born player on Atlanta United’s roster. In addition to Paraguay international Miguel Almirón, 22, Atlanta boasts four players under the age of 25 who have combined to appear in more than 250 matches in the top flight of Argentine football. Other Atlanta players with top flight experience outside of MLS include Brad Guzan, Chris McCann and Kenwyne Jones (English Premier League), Michael Parkhurst (Bundesliga and Danish Superliga), Greg Garza (Liga MX), Kevin Kratz (Bundesliga) and Alex Tambakis (Greek Superleague). Another, Anton Walkes, has experience with Premier League side Tottenham in the EFL Cup.