“I think if he continues how he plays the last two games ... that’s the Pity I want to see,” he said. “He’s involved in defending and attacking. If he shows that there’s no doubt he will have a major impact in MLS and for us.”
Villalba’s and Barco’s seasons were negatively affected by injuries. Bocanegra called Villalba a top player who should be able to compete for a starting position no matter which formation de Boer selects. Villalba doesn’t have a natural position in a 3-4-2-1 formation, which is what the team played frequently the second half of the season. Villalba had one goal and four assists in 20 appearances. Each were his lowest in three seasons with the club. Barco had four goals and three assists in 15 appearances. He scored no goals after May 5 and had two assists in that same span. Bocanegra said Barco is one of several players on the team that other teams have scouted.
It seems likely that Atlanta United will purchase midfielder Emerson Hyndman from Bournemouth. Bocanegra said the club hopes to have good news soon.
But de Boer said it’s impossible to replace midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who recently was sold to Columbus.
“Other players will have to step up and use their weapons,” de Boer said.
The roster construction is of vital importance because, for the second consecutive season, Atlanta United will compete in the Champions League. Unlike last season, when Pity Martinez was a late arrival after joining from River Plate, Nagbe was working on his fitness, and Hyndman and Justin Meram had yet to arrive, de Boer said he hopes the team is mostly constructed with time to work together before the first game. The tournament draw will be Dec. 9. The first games are Feb. 18-20.
The team will take a preseason trip to Guadalajara, Mexico to better acclimate to the travel that comes with the Champions League. Last season, the team played against Herediano in Costa Rica and Monterrey in Mexico.
“It’s important that we have the roster clear with these important games,” de Boer said.