Atlanta United Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said there are “many different things on the table” regarding the team freeing a Designated Player slot to make room for Pity Martinez.
Speaking at Martinez’s introductory news conference Friday at the team’s training ground in Marietta, Bocanegra was asked if there is an option that’s not either selling Miguel Almiron, or selling or loaning Ezequiel Barco, who are two of the team’s DPs, to accommodate Pity Martinez.
As part of his answer, Bocanegra said the team has until March 1 to comply with MLS rules and that “internally, we will figure it out.”
Almiron or Barco are the most likely candidates to leave because Josef Martinez, the reigning league MVP and the team’s other DP, just signed a contract extension.
Almiron arguably has been the best player in MLS the past two seasons, with 21 goals and 28 assists in 62 appearances. He twice made the All-Star team and last season finished second to Martinez in the MVP voting, in addition to helping Atlanta United win the MLS Cup.
Barco, acquired for a reported MLS-record transfer fee of $15 million before the 2018 season, didn’t make the impact many expected with just four goals and three assists in 26 appearances. His season was negatively affected by an injury suffered the week of the opening game, and a three-game suspension near the middle of the season related to an off-the-field issue. Because he is 19 years old and classified as a Young DP by the MLS, should Atlanta United want to loan him, it would need the acquiring club only to pay Barco’s salary, and not a combination of his salary and transfer fee, to free a roster spot and a DP spot.
Atlanta United’s issue of four DPs, one also shared by the L.A. Galaxy going into the season, has started discussion among journalists and those who follow the league that it may be time for MLS to relax the rules and let teams that want to spend money, spend money.
Bocanegra said it’s good that these types of discussions are ongoing as the league involves. Though he didn’t know what the changes may be, he said there may be changes in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. The current CBA expires in January 2020.
Until a decision is made and executed, Pity Martinez will join the rest of Atlanta United’s players in training. Bocanegra joked that he expects Pity Martinez to get a few minutes of playing time in the team’s first game in the CONCACAF Champions League at Herediano in Costa Rica on Feb. 21.
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