Atlanta United announces end-of-season roster moves

Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) fouls Columbus Crew forward Diego Ross (10) in the second half of an MLS playoff soccer match, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) fouls Columbus Crew forward Diego Ross (10) in the second half of an MLS playoff soccer match, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Credit: AP

Atlanta United will be in the market for experienced midfielders and at least one centerback and goalkeeper after its season-ending roster moves were announced Friday.

Veteran players out of contract, or whose 2024 contract options weren’t picked up, included centerback Miles Robinson, midfielders Matheus Rossetto, Amar Sejdic and Ozzie Alonso, striker Miguel Berry and goalkeepers Clement Diop and Quentin Westberg. The team is having discussions with Robinson and Westberg about re-signing.

Atlanta United’s season ended with a loss to Columbus in the first round of the MLS playoffs.

Robinson was Atlanta United’s longest-serving player, the team having selected him with the No. 2 pick in its inaugural 2017 draft. He made 150 appearances across all competitions, third most in club history. The club has had a maximum TAM contract offer to him since he suffered a ruptured Achilles in May 2022. He has yet to sign. Vice President Carlos Bocanegra on Friday said the team has set an internal deadline for Robinson to make a decision. Robinson left immediately after the team lost to Columbus in the MLS playoffs to join the U.S. men’s national team, so Bocanegra said they haven’t had a chance to discuss intentions.

“We obviously know we can’t wait all the way into January,” Bocanegra said.

Should Robinson not re-sign, combined with the club also announcing that it chose not to exercise the loan option on JuanJo Purata, Atlanta United will be in the market for at least one centerback. The club still has Luis Abram, who made 28 appearances this season, and Noah Cobb, a Homegrown signee who will be entering his second season with the first team in 2024. Bocanegra said the club is not pursuing reported target David Martinez.

Bocanegra said he hasn’t had a chance to talk with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, the team’s captain, about his future. Guzan, 39 years old, said after the loss to Columbus that he needed to speak to his family before making a decision whether to return or retire. Bocanegra said the team will pursue signing a goalkeeper to compete with Guzan for the starting spot. Guzan is the only goalkeeper on the roster after Friday’s moves. Guzan’s contract ends after the 2024 season. There is an option for 2025.

“I don’t know where he is mentally at the moment on that front,” Bocanegra said. “I want to listen to him. He’s been amazing for us since he came here, his leadership, his presence. You guys know what it means to this club. So I really just want to understand where Brad is at the moment and have this discussion with him.”

The team has yet to make a decision on whether to purchase winger Xande Silva, who is on loan from Dijon.

Bocanegra said the team intends to go into the 2024 season with attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, who finished among the top three in votes for MVP. Almada scored 11 goals and led the league with 19 assists. His contract ends after the 2026 season. Bocanegra said the club has the financial flexibility to extend Almada’s contract. Bocanegra said Almada has a lot of suitors in Europe.

Part of that financial flexibility was created by the signing of Saba Lobjanidze to a Designated Player contract that can be bought down using Allocation Money, a financial mechanism unique to MLS. Should the team buy down Lobjanidze’s contract, Bocanegra said the team would likely pursue another attacking player to fill that DP slot.

The club will attempt to sign more midfielders. Rossetto made 98 appearances for the club. His high salary ($764,375) may have factored into why the club didn’t re-sign him. He said he hoped to remain with the club. Sejdic made 61 appearances. Bocanegra said the club is having conversations with defensive midfielders Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra about their futures and the possibility of them going to other clubs where they may play more. Ibarra was sent on loan to Toronto during the season. Sosa didn’t appear in the past nine matches. Both occupy under Under-22 Initiative slots and count $200,000 each against the team’s salary budget.

The team declined 2024 contract options on several Homegrown signees: winger Machop Chol, striker Jackson Conway, goalkeeper Justin Garces and centerback Efrain Morales, though the team is having continued discussions with Morales. The team did exercise the option on wingback Aiden McFadden, a 2021 draft pick.

Chol, loved in the locker room, made 35 appearances the past three seasons. His age (25), combined with a lot of injuries, likely led to the decision not to exercise the option on his contract. He scored two goals with two assists. Conway couldn’t break into the first team. Morales has yet to play for the first team. He finished with one goal.

Combining the salaries provided by the Major League Soccer Players Association totals more than $4 million in salaries removed from the team. Portions of those totals could come back should Robinson re-sign or Silva’s loan be made permanent.

Two Homegrowns, Luke Brennan and Adyn Torres, are joining the first team in 2024, as is Nick Firmino, from Atlanta United 2.

Important dates coming for the club: Bona fide offers must be submitted by Nov. 22, trade window opens Dec. 11, free-agency begins Dec. 13 and the draft is Dec. 19.

Atlanta United roster (with salary as of October) by position:

Strikers (2): Giorgos Giakoumakis ($2,160,453) and Jamal Thiare ($1,072,679 annualized).

Wingers (5): Erik Centeno ($79,136), Derrick Etienne ($676,250), Saba Lobjanidze ($2,150,750 annualized), Edwin Mosquera ($412,000) and Tyler Wolff ($124,500).

Midfielders (8): Thiago Almada ($2,332,000), Luke Brennan (TBA), Nick Firmino (TBA), Ajani Fortune ($67,360), Franco Ibarra ($620,000), Tristan Muyumba ($491,600 annualized), Adyn Torres (TBA) and Santiago Sosa ($693,100).

Fullbacks (4): Ronald Hernandez ($375,000), Books Lennon ($700,000), Aiden McFadden ($85,444) and Caleb Wiley ($87,044).

Centerbacks (2): Luis Abram ($695,977) and Noah Cobb ($67,360).

Goalkeepers (1): Brad Guzan ($612,500).

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