Atlanta United makes roster moves, with one surprise

Atlanta United's Alec Kann.
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Atlanta United's Alec Kann.

Atlanta United announced its season-ending roster moves Wednesday, and there was one surprise.

The option on the contract for goalkeeper Alec Kann, one of the first players signed by the squad in the 2016 expansion draft, wasn’t exercised by the club. But a person with knowledge said the club hopes to sign him as a free agent. Kann, a native of Decatur, has 24 appearances in league games for the team and has proved to be an excellent starter or backup. The 31-year-old has made more than 100 appearances across all competitions as a pro.

Most of the squad was under contract and is scheduled to return for the team’s sixth season in 2022. That group includes strikers Josef Martinez and Erik Lopez, midfielders Luiz Araujo, Ezequiel Barco, Marcelino Moreno, Santiago Sosa, Franco Ibarra, Matheus Rossetto, Emerson Hyndman, Jurgen Damm, Jake Mulraney, Tyler Wolff and Machop Chol, centerbacks Miles Robinson, Alan Franco, Anton Walkes, Bryce Washington, Efrain Morales and George Campbell, fullback Andrew Gutman and goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

The team exercised options on fullbacks George Bello, Mikey Ambrose, Franco Escobar, who spent the season on loan at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, Brooks Lennon, striker Jackson Conway, centerback Alex De John and Amar Sejdic.

Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said the team has received inquiries for Escobar. Bocanegra also noted that there is a lot of depth and competition on the back line.

“We still have a lot of decisions to make on that,” he said about Escobar. “The roster is not set at this moment. So we don’t have final answers on that.”

The team declined options on Kann, midfielder Mo Adams, centerback Josh Bauer, goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard and striker Erick Torres. Additionally, fullback Ronald Hernandez’s loan from Aberdeen is ending and he is scheduled to return to join the Scottish club.

Adams, 25, appeared in 23 league games, starting three. He scored one goal. Bauer didn’t appear for the team after selecting him in the 2021 draft. Lundgaard, 26, also didn’t appear for the club for the past two seasons. Torres scored one goal in 33 appearances.

The team’s decisions regarding Kann and Lundgaard leave it with one goalkeeper, Brad Guzan, on the roster. Training camp for the 2022 season will start in late January or early February.

Not exercising contract options isn’t a mechanism the team can use to protect players from being selected in the Charlotte expansion draft. According to MLS rules for the draft, which is scheduled to be held Dec. 14, players who are free agents because the option was declined on their contract aren’t protected and are eligible for selection.

Bocanegra said the club isn’t looking to buy out the contract of Damm, who is among the team’s highest-paid players but has yet to produce since joining in the middle of the 2020 season. Bocanegra said a shift to a formation that included three centerbacks and two wingbacks didn’t fit Damm’s skills. Manager Gonzalo Pineda said the club is considering changing its base formation, which may help Damm, who is better suited as a wide midfielder or winger.

Roster by position

(listed alphabetically)

Strikers: Jackson Conway, Erik Lopez, Josef Martinez.

Attacking midfielders: Marcelino Moreno, Tyler Wolff.

Wingers: Luiz Araujo, Ezequiel Barco, Machop Chol, Jurgen Damm, Jake Mulraney.

Central midfielders: Emerson Hyndman, Matheus Rossetto, Amar Sejdic.

Defensive midfielders: Franco Ibarra, Santiago Sosa.

Fullbacks: George Bello, Franco Escobar, Andrew Gutman, Brooks Lennon, Mikey Ambrose.

Centerbacks: George Campbell, Alex De John, Alan Franco, Efrain Morales, Miles Robinson, Anton Walkes, Bryce Washington.

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m.

March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m.

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