October 30, 2019 Atlanta: Atlanta United defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez gets a header against Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley in the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday, October 30, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Trade, free agent targets for Atlanta United

While waiting on Atlanta United to officially announce that it has traded Darlington Nagbe to Columbus for Allocation Money, I thought, while watching the West Wing on Netflix (I love the dialogue patterns), that I’d present some players that I think the Five Stripes should consider adding through trade or free-agency. 

That was one long rassin frassin sentence. 

These targets are based upon nothing but my preferences. Most of these players would be, in most cases, for depth, spot starts/injury replacements to help the team better navigate the Champions League, U.S. Open Cup and MLS schedules. 

Certain positions that I think the team could consider strengthening are at centerback, fullback and central midfield. 

I realize this may be premature prognostication because contract options haven’t been announced or extensions (possibly) executed. 

Daniel Royer, midfield, New York Red Bulls. This is a reach for a lot of reasons, including salary ($768,749.46), age (29) and that he signed a multi-year contract during 2018. I’m not sure the Red Bulls would trade Royer, but the team seems likely to rebuild in the offseason and Royer is among its assets. He can play across the midfield and play well with 35 goals and 14 assists the past four seasons. His flexibility would be key because of manager Frank de Boer’s stated desire to be able to switch formations during games. Royer would provide excellent cover should Ezequiel Barco be sold, Pity Martinez be sold, or, for some yet-to-be-explained reason, the team were to trade Julian Gressel. Justin Meram’s future with the club is still unknown. It’s thought that Emerson Hyndman will be bought from Bournemouth, but nothing has been announced. 

Lalas Abubakar, centerback, Columbus. I was a bit surprised that Atlanta United didn’t ask for Abubakar as part of the exchange for Nagbe. Abubakar, 24, was among a handful of players who shined during the 2017 MLS Combine. The others included Miles Robinson and Julian Gressel. Abubakar was drafted by Columbus in 2018, where he started 26 games over two seasons, but was sent on loan to Colorado by new manager Caleb Porter during the 2019 season. It seems likely that the Rapids will try to acquire him because he played well and his salary is just $144,937.50 in 2019. But Colorado isn’t known as the best-run organization so enough Allocation Money might do the trick. Abubakar can provide cover at centerback, particularly if de Boer goes with a four-man backline that will push Franco Escobar to right fullback. Atlanta United, as of now, has Miles Robinson, Flo Pogba, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and rookie George Campbell at centerback. Pogba and Gonzalez Pirez have options on their contracts for 2020. Pro Soccer USA reported in October that acquiring Abubakar could cost a club more than $1 million in Allocation Money. Atlanta United is likely about to acquire more than $1 million in Allocation Money. 

Diego Valeri, midfielder, Portland. This move would purely be for the tournaments. The 33-year-old has one year remaining on his contract with Timbers and talks of an extension have stopped. His salary ($2.4 million) could only be accommodated if there’s a new CBA that includes less financial restrictions. He’s durable (at least 28 starts six of seven years) and productive (76 goals and 81 assists). He can also play a few positions. It would seem likely that this is the type of trade that would require a player and cash. 

Adam Lundkvist, fullback, Houston. The Dynamo need to rebuild. Lundkvist may want a better scenario. The 25-year-old native of Sweden can play either right or left fullback, has an eye for a pass (four assists last season), and has a reasonable salary ($303,749.92). Plus, he makes tackles (2.3 per game last season), which is important to de Boer. The team’s presumed starters at right and left back are Escobar and George Bello, but both have unfortunate histories with injuries. 

Michael Bradley, midfielder, Toronto. Yes, this is Doug Roberson writing this. It seems improbable that Bradley will leave Toronto. But his contract is up and he may want a new challenge. Could he be the Nagbe replacement? Possibly. Will he bring tournament experience? Definitely. What would it take to get him? No idea. Plus, he deserves a chance to yell at me, if he chooses, for all of the negative things I’ve tweeted and written about him.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

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