Reviewing Atlanta United’s players in a disappointing 2020 MLS season

Atlanta United forward Erick Torres collides with FC Cincinnati defender Tom Pettersson on a header while Kendall Watson, right, looks on in an MLS match on Sunday, Nov 1, 2020, in Atlanta.
Atlanta United forward Erick Torres collides with FC Cincinnati defender Tom Pettersson on a header while Kendall Watson, right, looks on in an MLS match on Sunday, Nov 1, 2020, in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Reviewing each of Atlanta United’s players from the 2020 MLS season:

Goalkeepers

Brad Guzan, 23 starts, 1.30 goals against per 90 minutes.

Not his best season with the club. His frustration after defeats, particularly when some of the goals and chances created were self-inflicted, was palpable even through Zoom. As a captain, also tasked with trying to keep players focused and morale high during a season that was difficult for myriad reasons.

Alec Kann, 0 starts.

Brendan Moore, 0 starts.

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Fullbacks

George Bello, 20 appearances, 1,643 minutes, 1 goal, 1 assist. His defensive positioning and tackling improved so much over the season. His offense, particularly the final pass, will improve next season. He has easily become the best of the first batch of Homegrown signings.

Edgar Castillo, 4 appearances. Bello’s progress and his own injuries prevented him from making an impact.

Franco Escobar, 16 appearances, 1 assist, 8 yellow cards. When he kept his cool he was a solid player for Atlanta United. But too often he couldn’t. He showed his value as a centerback or fullback, but his offense has regressed from his first season. Plus, there’s his temper:

Escobar apologized on Twitter a few days later.

Brooks Lennon, 23 appearances, 1,752 minutes, two goals, three assists. Arguably the team’s MVP for his work on offense and defense in a variety of roles. Imagine how many assists he would have had if Josef Martinez hadn’t sustained his injury.

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Centerbacks

George Campbell, 1 appearance.

Fernando Meza, 13 appearances, plus/minus of minus-5, 28.6 percent successful tackle percentage, 70 percent of aerial duals won. Probably not what Atlanta United expected as the replacement for Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. He frequently made questionable decisions with his positioning and marking, as seen in the video below. He admitted before the finale that it he can be better.

Miles Robinson, 17 appearances, plus/minus of minus-8, 64.7 percent successful tackle percentage, 77.6 percent of aerial duals won. With the exception of a few games, he wasn’t as dominant as last season, but he also was trying to play through several injuries. Still young, he needs a veteran beside him to coach him with his positioning, as seen in the video below. Still has all the tools and a very bright future.

Anton Walkes, 17 appearances, plus/minus of minus-2, 38.9 percent successful tackle percentage, 58.1 percent of aerial duals won. Struggled at the beginning of the season, but found a fine footing as a centerback until injuries cut the year short.

Laurence Wyke, 7 appearances.

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Central midfielders

Mo Adams, 13 appearances, 91.7 percent successful dribbles, 24.2 percent successful pressures, 90.2 percent passing completion. As he started to make consecutive starts he started to show his potential and talent. He wasn’t as good as Darlington Nagbe in that role last year, but he was starting to show glimpses in moments. But, as with so many other teammates, an injury cut his season short.

Emerson Hyndman, 20 appearances, 2 goals, 2 assists, 0.03 expected goals per 90 minutes, 0.09 expected assists per 90 minutes. He was the first solution to trying to replace Nagbe, but it wasn’t working as well as expected at the beginning of the season because his recovery speed isn’t great. He plays better as a central midfielder stationed higher up the pitch where his imaginative passing benefits the team.

Jeff Larentowicz, 19 appearances, two goals, 50 percent successful tackle percentage, 30.8 percent successful pressures. Here’s hoping he comes back for one more season.

Eric Remedi, 18 appearances, 5.9 percent successful tackle percentage. Fell out of favor under Frank de Boer and then again under Stephen Glass. Perhaps because of that tackling percentage.

Matheus Rossetto, 15 appearances, 0.02 expected goals per 90 minutes, 0.04 expected assists per 90 minutes. Mostly ineffective through the first two-thirds of the season (those expected goals and expected assists stats were 0.00 for most of the season) but started to show quality when working alongside Marcelino Moreno and Jurgen Damm. Still, it’s not clear what position is best for him.

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Wide midfielders

Ezequiel Barco, 15 appearances, 2 goals, 2 assists, 0.31 expected goals per 90 minutes, 0.06 expected assists per 90 minutes, 65.9 successful dribbles. Two moments against Columbus summed up Barco’s season: During one, he was sprinting toward his marker and then stopped and put his foot on the ball rather than trying to beat the man in a one-on-one, which is something he can do. On the second, he kept the ball while surrounded by four defenders until losing it when he tripped and fell.

Manuel Castro, 10 appearances. Not clear what Atlanta United saw that made it want to secure a loan and then extend it.

Jon Gallagher, 16 appearances, team-leading 4 goals, 0.13 expected assists per 90 minutes. The biggest revelation of the season because it wasn’t clear he was even going to be on the team when the season started. He outplayed Barco as a left midfielder and arguably was the team’s best threat at striker.

Jake Mulraney, 18 appearances, 1 goal, 1 assist, 63.6 percent successful dribbles. He was supposed to be the Irish Hector Villalba because of his speed and dribbling ability. But the lack of a clear position – is he a fullback, wingback or midfielder – and the emergence of Gallagher on the left and Jurgen Damm on the right cost him minutes.

Jurgen Damm, 14 appearances, team-leading four assists, 0.24 expected assists per 90 minutes, 64.3 percent successful dribbles. Estimated he was playing at around 60 percent in the final games of the season, which could make him a difference-maker next season.

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Strikers/Attacking midfielders

Adam Jahn, 21 appearances, 3 goals, 2 assists, 37.3 percent aerial duals won. Maligned by some of the supporters for the things he’s not, he put in work every appearance.

Josef Martinez, 1 appearance. What if ... No. Yeah, but if … No. He’s not returning until next season.

Marcelino Moreno, 6 appearances, 2 goals, 1 assist, 0.38 expected goals per 90 minutes, 0.11 expected assists per 90 minutes. Thought to be a version of Miguel Almiron, he didn’t show the same speed, but was as effective in other ways. Looks to be a solid signing by the club.

Erick Torres, 13 appearances, 1 goal, 0.47 expected goals per 90 minutes. Dude couldn’t buy a goal until near the end. The good news is he kept getting into good spots. The bad news is he couldn’t convert.

Tyler Wolff, 5 appearances. Homegrown with a few appearances.

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