Why will Atlanta United likely be quiet as MLS transfer window closes?

Carlos Bocanegra, Atlanta United's vice president and technical director, likely won't make any moves as the MLS transfer window closes Thursday. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

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Carlos Bocanegra, Atlanta United's vice president and technical director, likely won't make any moves as the MLS transfer window closes Thursday. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Atlanta United will likely be quiet as the MLS transfer window closes Thursday.

The team has needs and tried to address a few with the acquisition of goalkeeper Raul Gudino as a free agent, centerback JuanJo Purata on loan from Tigres and winger Edwin Mosquera on a transfer. Only Purata has played. Mosquera arrived to the team Tuesday.

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Though the team has needs as it tries to climb from 12th to seventh in the final 12 games of the regular season, it is boxed in from making any more moves for a few reasons:

The space on its roster is maxed out, so it can’t sign any more free agents.

It has no international slots available.

Perhaps most important, when considering this season’s production combined with the salary/transfer fees of its players, the team doesn’t have many assets that other teams might consider impactful now.

That’s not to say the team doesn’t have players with tremendous potential. But because of myriad reasons, it can be argued that perhaps only a handful of players are having good seasons and those who are, such as Caleb Wiley, the team certainly doesn’t want to part with.

The potentially tradeable assets on the team, based upon this season’s production and salaries, are Marcelino Moreno and Amar Sejdic. Moreno has two goals and five assists this season and 13 and 11 in 60 appearances since joining the club near the end of the 2020 season. While Moreno’s salary is a relatively low $460,000, his reported transfer fee of $7 million, amortized over the length of the contract, counts against the salary cap and likely negatively affects his value. Plus, he would take an international slot.

Sejdic’s situation is the opposite of Moreno’s. His salary is a very attractive $85,444. The 25-year-old has made 14 appearances, including 11 starts, this season. He has shown that he can be a good depth piece as a central midfielder. Why would Atlanta United trade him?

That is another piece in Atlanta United’s puzzle: It needs a central midfielder. So, why trade one at a low salary for another?

The team was built to score goals, but it can’t score goals. It has scored only 29 in 22 games. It needs one of two things, if not both: a tough, defensive-minded and disciplined defensive midfielder who can shield a developing back line, and/or a midfielder who can consistently move the ball forward to playmaker Thiago Almada.

Of course, teams that have that kind of player likely aren’t going to want to trade him unless they also receive a very valuable asset.

What about some of Atlanta United’s other young players? The issue for most teams likely would be salary. Santiago Sosa, 23, with 35 appearances, has a guaranteed salary of $643,100. Franco Ibarra, 21, with 29 appearances, has a salary of $520,000. Matheus Rossetto, 26, with 55 appearances, is $662,000. All the players have potential, but none have shown they can be consistently impactful.

There is one wild card in Atlanta United’s deck, but it almost certainly is one that the team wouldn’t want to throw out: Josef Martinez.

A 29-year-old striker, Martinez is the face of the franchise with 99 goals in the regular season and playoffs. He has one year remaining on his contract, so the team needs to decide what it wants to do. It’s unknown if it has an option on the deal. Martinez already has said this could be his last season with the team.

It’s clear that Martinez isn’t the same player as he was from 2017-19, when he scored 82 goals. He is recovering from knee surgery to repair a torn ACL sustained in the first game of the 2020 season. His quickness appears to be returning but his form hasn’t in recent games, with no goals in his past five appearances.

Because of his salary, Martinez would require a Designated Player slot. There are a few teams in MLS that have one of those places on their roster. Those teams are Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, which has former Atlanta United player Brandon Vazquez, Colorado, which has Gyasi Zardes, D.C. United, L.A. Galaxy, LAFC, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, NYCFC, the Red Bulls, Philadelphia, Real Salt Lake and Toronto, according to the MLS website.

It seems improbable that Atlanta United would trade Martinez. The team needs goals, badly. Trading Martinez, unless the team received an unbelievable offer, would be considered a sign that it has given up on making the playoffs. The team has never done that in its previous five seasons, even in 2020 when it struggled all year. It still moved to bring in Jurgen Damm and Moreno that year to boost the team’s chances of the postseason. Those moves didn’t help that season.

Would a move help the team this season?

It seems unlikely that any more players will be added.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 5:30 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE