In the team’s first official offseason, Atlanta United fans would have been forgiven for thinking they’d be stuck without their Five Stripes for a few months. But the last month has proven that the Five Stripes don’t stop, with the team already making some big headlines in the silly season that is the MLS transfer window. So as we head into the holiday season, here’s where the team stands.
Year-End Roster Moves
The offseason started with the end-of-year roster adjustments. In all, nine players from the 2017 squad will not be returning after their contracts were not renewed. Meanwhile Rookie of the Year Julian Gressel headlines a group of five players that were renewed, joining the squad of 17 other players that remained from last year’s team.
Greg Garza signs permanent deal
The starting left back for the MLS All-Star team, Greg Garza was a critical part of Atlanta United’s high-pressing system in his first year with the team – but he was only on the squad on loan from Mexican side Tijuana. The Atlanta United front office didn’t hesitate to bring back one of the premier fullbacks in MLS, signing Garza to a multi-year deal.
Hildebrandt joins the goalkeeping platoon
With backup goalkeepers Kyle Reynish and Alex Tambakis both departing the club this offseason, Atlanta United needed an experienced netminder to join the team’s goalkeeping platoon. They found that in Mitch Hildebrandt, who joined the club from USL powerhouse FC Cincinnati. The former USL Goalkeeper of the Year was an integral part of the team since its inception and came up huge on the national stage in team’s penalty shootout win over the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup. He will now fight for a spot and raise the level of his fellow goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Alec Kann.
South American additions to the defense
Atlanta United has been successful finding diamonds in the Southern hemisphere to bolster the ranks, and they hope to have done it again by adding two young South American fullbacks to their arsenal ahead of the new season. First came Franco Escobar, a 22-year-old Argentine playing in the Argentine Primera Division. Capable of playing right back or in the center, Escobar’s skills will be well-known to Tata Martino, who used to manage Escobar’s former club, Newell’s Old Boys.
Then came 20-year-old Venezuelan left back José Hernández from Caracas FC. One of the breakout players for the Veneuzuelan national side that made it all the way to the U-20 FIFA World Cup final earlier this year, Hernández will be another hungry, young player looking to maximize his potential under Tata Martino.
Larentowicz re-signs in Free Agency
One of the longest-tenured veterans in MLS, Jeff Larentowicz was always going to play a key role in helping form a new team in this league from scratch. But his performance exceeded the expectations of many around the league after his stellar form in the center of the park made him a mainstay in Tata Martino’s lineup. So just after the free agency window was announced, the club announced it had re-signed Larentowicz to come back and continue his crucial role on the field and in the locker room.
Darlington Nagbe moves to Atlanta
Atlanta United made the headline of the MLS offseason so far when they brought in U.S. international Darlington Nagbe. One of the top talents in MLS since he was drafted back in 2011, the 2016 All-Star and 2015 MLS Cup champion adds another dimension to an already-electric red, black and gold midfield. The club’s top target from inside MLS this season, the front office pointed to Nagbe's elite skills in maintaining possession and his ability to connect and bring others into the game as a whole new dimension for the team’s midfield in 2018.
It’s been a busy offseason so far, but it’s just the beginning. Stay tuned to atlutd.com and our social media challenges, where you will find out all player news first. That includes plenty more to come about the team’s new USL side. Don’t forget: The Five Stripes don’t stop.