MONTREAL, QC - JULY 28: MLS match between Montreal Impact and Atlanta United at Stade Saputo in Montreal, QC. Canada on July 28, 2018. PHOTO: Steve Kingsman / Freestyle Photography for Atlanta United
Photo: Steve Kingsman/Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography
Photo: Steve Kingsman/Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography

Answering your questions about Atlanta United’s roster in 2020

Atlanta United doesn’t have a game this week, but that doesn’t mean I get to take a week off.

So, I used Twitter (@DougRobersonAJC) to solicit questions for a mailbag. You sent in some good ones.

Let’s go:

Q: What is the favorite team meal for before and after games?

A: We aren’t in the locker rooms for pre-game, and only see scraps of what’s left from the post-game meal.

So, I’m going to say the team’s favorite meal before and after games is Orlando City’s hopes and dreams. HA!

I kid, mostly just to antagonize Orlando’s fans, who think I hate their team. I don’t.

I have seen, mostly on road games, everything from boxed sandwiches to pizza in the past three years for the post-game meal.

As for what we eat, Mercedes-Benz treats us very well. My favorite meal is panko-crusted chicken. We haven’t had that this season. And, of course, Carvel Ice Cream.

On the road, the best meals are at Yankee Stadium, Philadelphia and Seattle. The worst is Chicago. I’m hoping that will change next year.

Q: Thoughts on Michael Parkhurst’s lack of playing time. I feel he always plays above his abilities due to his field sense.

A: This has been really curious. Parkhurst, who finished third in MLS Defender of the Year voting last year, has made just 18 appearances, including 14 starts, in league games this season. He’s on pace for his fewest appearances in a season in his 10 years in MLS. 

Manager Frank de Boer said he prefers faster centerbacks in the three-man system because the team plays a higher line and the 35-year-old Parkhurst isn’t as fast as Miles Robinson, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Flo Pogba or Franco Escobar. Escobar and Robinson are two of the fastest players in all of MLS.

De Boer tried Parkhurst as a wingback a few times, and the results weren’t great. While Parkhurst can read a game better than most, his lack of speed can still leave him exposed.

It would be nice to see him get a run at centerback when the team returns to action. I think he could still produce like he did last year there, particularly if he’s playing with Robinson and Gonzalez Pirez.

Part of my wish for that is selfish. Parkhurst is a good guy and one of the best quotes on the team. He’s thoughtful and honest in his answers.

Q: I am very curious to find out if there has been a shift in geographical locations for team recruiting. The core of our team (and frankly the biggest stars) have historically been from South America. In the past year, other than Pity Martinez, we have signed zero players from South America. Is this a club decision or just a coincidence? Seems like a big change since we hired de Boer and the new talent scout from Europe.

A: This is a great question for a lot of reasons. In short, no, I don’t think you are seeing a shift. Instead, I think you are seeing the team broaden its horizons. There is a lot of competition to sign South American players. Negotiations can be…odd, as evidenced by the reports of the steps it has taken to secure majority of the signings from clubs in Argentina, for example.

Atlanta United recently hired former MLS and Premier League player Jonathan Spector as Director of International Scouting. I’m hoping to talk to him soon and will ask him about scouting the South American market.

Q: What does the future hold for Jeff Larentowicz?

A: If he can avoid Sam Jones’ persistent requests to hang out, I think Larentowicz has at least one more of playing in him.

He’s a very competitive person and I have a hard time seeing him not giving it one more go, either with Atlanta United or with one of the new expansion teams, Nashville or Miami (assuming it plays next year).

While I do think Larentowicz would be a great coach because of his experience and ability to communicate, I also think he would be an excellent Technical Director for a squad. He knows MLS. He has seen what types of players make for successful, trophy-winning clubs. He’s also very intelligent.

Q: Question, with de Boer as coach, do you think that we are going to follow in the steps of Ajax and be a feeder team for first tier clubs within the next decade?

A: Yes, but that has been the team’s goal since before it had a coach. President Darren Eales has said part of his plan was to buy young players, develop them, and sell them for a profit, if the right situation presents itself.

Ajax, for those unfamiliar, is the best club in Holland and one of the best in the world at developing soccer players. The list of players that have come through its academy, youth teams, or as young professionals is staggering:

Luis Suarez, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edgar Davids, Johan Cruyff, Frenkie De Jong, Wesley Sneijder, Matthijs de Ligt, Rafael van der Vaart, the de Boer brothers, Dennis Bergkamp…just off the top of my head.

Atlanta United has a few times now has sold players and I think you could see a few players sold in the January window, which is the subject of the next question.

Q: Who is and who isn’t under contract for next year? I get the feeling that this is going to be a very different look, with some mainstays such as Gonzalez Pirez and Hector Villalba possibly playing elsewhere but wasn’t sure if they are still in fact under contract or not.

A: Answering this question is difficult because there should be a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLS and the MLS Players Association for the 2020 season and its rules could be very different than what are in place now.

In a worst-case scenario, next year’s team could look very, very different than it does now.

In a best-case scenario, the CBA will allow for some flexibility so that the team and players can find workable solutions.

I’m going to give you what info I have on most of the players (either from my reporting or from transfermarkt.co.uk), and my take for each player’s future with the club:

Mo Adams

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: He won’t be with the club next season.

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Mikey Ambrose

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: He won’t be with the club next season.

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Ezequiel Barco

His contract doesn’t expire until after the 2022 season.

My take: If he’s not sold, he will be with the club next season.

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George Bello

Homegrown signing whose contract reportedly expires after the 2019 season. I’m not sure that’s correct.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Andrew Carleton

Homegrown signing whose contract reportedly expires after the 2019 season. I’m not sure that’s correct.

My take: If his contract will expire, I don’t think he will be with the club next season, unless it’s a sign and full-season loan.

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Franco Escobar

His contract expires after the 2020 season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Luiz Fernando

Recently signed with club.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Leandro Gonzalez Pirez

There is an option on his contract for 2020 season.

My take: I think he will be sold.

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Chris Goslin

Homegrown signing whose contract reportedly expires after the 2019 season. I’m not sure that’s correct.

My take: If his contract will expire, I don’t think he will be with the club next season.  

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Julian Gressel

There is an option on his contract for 2020 season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Brad Guzan

No contract info to be found, other than he signed a multi-year deal in 2017.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Emerson Hyndman

He is on loan from Bournemouth. Atlanta United has an option to buy after the 2019 season.

My take: He will be with the club next season, unless playing time is a concern. 

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Alec Kann

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Kevin Kratz

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: He will not be with the club next season because of his salary.

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Jeff Larentowicz

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Pity Martinez

Signed with the club before the 2019 season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Josef Martinez

Signed a five-contract before the start of the season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Justin Meram

No contract info to be found, other than he signed a multi-year deal in 2017.

My take: I think he will be with the club next season, but not knowing how many years are remaining, if any, on his contract, make him a wildcard.

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Brendan Moore

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Darlington Nagbe

His contract expires after the 2020 season.

My take: This is the player whose future may be most determined by the CBA. Atlanta United has a short history of not paying too much for veterans, as evidenced by the trade of Greg Garza and releasing Chris McCann earlier this season. I don’t think Nagbe will be with the club next season.

The fact that his contract does expire helps to explain what was going on with him during the preseason. I don’t think he asked flat-out to be traded. I think it was more nuanced than that, as in sign me to a longer deal or trade me.

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Michael Parkhurst

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: He won’t be with the club as a player next season.

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Dion Pereira

No contract info to be found.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Florentin Pogba

His contract expires after this season with an option for next season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Eric Remedi

His contract doesn’t expire until after the 2021 season.

My take: He will be with the club next season.

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Miles Robinson

No contract info available.

My take: If he’s not sold, and I were a club in Europe I’d look to buy him now than wait another season when his price will likely increase, he will be with the club next season. The club can’t sell him and LGP with the possibility of Michael Parkhurst not being with the club next season as a player. George Campbell is intriguing, though.

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Brek Shea

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: With George Bello healthy and available, I don’t think he will be with the club next season. If Meram isn’t retained, Shea could be.

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Brandon Vazquez

His contract expires after the 2019 season.

My take: I think Vazquez has a very bright future. Playing time is the issue. It wouldn’t surprise me if he were to be sold or re-signed and loaned for a season so that he can get consistent playing time.

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Hector Villalba

Believe team has an option on contract following 2019 season.

My take: If Barco is sold, Villalba may want to return because it could mean more playing time. If Barco isn’t sold, I think Villalba may ask to be sold.

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No thoughts on Jon Gallagher, Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo. I would be surprised if any are with the first-team next year.

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About the Author

Doug Roberson
Doug Roberson
Doug Roberson covers the Atlanta United and Major League Soccer.
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