With pivotal players flying off Atlanta United’s shelves at a Black Friday pace, manager Frank de Boer said Tuesday he would love to have new players in yesterday, but understands there’s a process and pace.
“Every penny has to turn around,” he said. “Agents want more money suddenly, or we are really focused on a player and he goes in a different direction and we have to go to plan B and it’s one or two weeks more.”
Atlanta United’s first Champions League game this season at Motagua in Honduras is less than three weeks away, increasing the urgency to find a new central midfielder and a right winger, which are the areas de Boer said he would like to strengthen.
Already sold or traded this offseason by the club are:
• Central midfielder Darlington Nagbe to Columbus;
• Wide midfielder/wingback Julian Gressel to D.C. United;
• Centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to Tijuana in LIGA MX;
• And winger Hector Villalba seems likely to soon be sold to a club in Paraguay.
Three of those four were starters in the 2018 MLS Cup win against Portland.
Also gone are centerbacks Michael Parkhurst (retired) and Flo Pogba, fullback Brek Shea and Mikey Ambrose, striker Brandon Vazquez (expansion draft) and midfielder Justin Meram.
It’s a lot.
While team vice president Carlos Bocanegra and his team have worked to bring in new faces such as wingback/fullback Brooks Lennon, centerback Fernando Meza, wingback/fullback Edgar Castillo, striker Adam Jahn and winger/wingback Jake Mulraney, de Boer said he feels the team is still thin in the middle and on the right.
As an example, he pointed to last week’s scrimmage against the New York Red Bulls. Jeff Larentowicz was out because he is recovering from offseason knee surgery. Emerson Hyndman was recovering from a minor injury to his knee. The only two players remaining were Eric Remedi and Mo Adams.
“We are very thin at midfield,” he said. “We need a good midfielder.”
If Villalba is sold, the team will be thin on the right wing. De Boer said that Brooks Lennon is a candidate, as is Jake Mulraney. But it seems de Boer prefers Mulraney on the left. He said Ezequiel Barco can play on the left wing, but there may be games in which he is deployed as the 10, or attacking midfielder.
The team traded Nagbe to Columbus in November, and so far has been reportedly tied to several candidates.
De Boer has said a few times that the team needs someone to fill that role played by Nagbe and did so again Tuesday.
“Most important thing is the midfielder,” de Boer said.