Bocanegra: Robinson, Franco will be back with Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson #12 celebrates after scoring during the match against Cincinnati FC at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio on Sunday November 7, 2021. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)
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Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson #12 celebrates after scoring during the match against Cincinnati FC at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio on Sunday November 7, 2021. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United

Centerbacks Miles Robinson and Alan Franco are expected to be back with Atlanta United for the 2022 MLS season, club Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said Tuesday.

Franco reportedly was of interest to Sao Paulo, a club in Brazil, and Robinson, who had another standout season for Atlanta United and emerged as a key player for the U.S. men’s national team with 13 appearances and three goals during 2021, reportedly is of interest to clubs in Germany and England. Robinson had 26 appearances for the club; Franco had 25.

“Looking for him to have a big, big year next year for us and the national team,” Bocanegra said of Robinson, who he expects to be called up by U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter for the January camp ahead of the next round of World Cup qualifying games. Berhalter said a few weeks ago that Robinson will be called into the camp.

Bocanegra said that Franco is important to the club and “won’t be going anywhere.”

Bocanegra provided several more personnel updates ahead of the 2022 season.

The club is working with the league and Scottish club Aberdeen on bringing back right fullback Ronald Hernandez, who spent this past season on loan. Bocanegra said it hasn’t been determined if Hernandez will join on loan or transfer. Hernandez made 13 appearances last season.

The club is having conversations with Lanus in Argentina about bringing back goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo. Bocanegra said it hasn’t been determined if it will be on loan or by a purchase. Rios Novo, 19, was one of the heroes in the club’s win at Alajuelense in its first Champions League game last season. He started 20 games for Atlanta United 2 in the USL Championship. He made 76 saves with a save percentage of 67.6. The club currently has two goalkeepers, Brad Guzan and Dylan Castanheira. Bocanegra said the club will add a third goalkeeper.

Possibly leaving the club, at least on loan, are striker Erik Lopez and winger Jurgen Damm.

Lopez, 20, made 18 appearances and scored one goal last season. He struggled to earn consistent playing time under three different managers. Bocanegra said clubs in South America and Mexico are interested in bringing him in. Atlanta United is interested in loaning him if it can find the right situation, Bocanegra said.

“Most important thing for him at this stage is to be playing and to continue to be developing as a No. 9 or second forward,” Bocanegra said. Lopez was purchased by the club from Olimpia in Paraguay during the 2020 season.

Damm made 10 appearances for the club last season and again failed to consistently contribute. Because 2022 is a World Cup year, Bocanegra said that Damm would like consistent playing time in an attempt to improve the probability of being selected to play for Mexico. There were reports Monday of several clubs showing interest in the speedy winger. Damm was brought in to Atlanta United on a free transfer during the 2020 season.

“We are open to find a situation that works for him if it makes sense for everybody,” Bocanegra said.

Bocanegra said there are no updates on the potential sales of midfielder Ezequiel Barco and fullback George Bello, or the possible purchase of midfielder Thiago Almada.

Bello and fullback Brooks Lennon just finished the U.S. December camp, which culminated with a 1-0 victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Dec. 18. Both players started. It was Lennon’s first appearance. Bocanegra said he was pleased for both players and thinks they, like Robinson, will push to get called into the January camp. The U.S. will play El Salvador on Jan. 27, Canada on Jan. 30 and Honduras on Feb. 2.

Speaking about players recovering from injuries, Bocanegra said that midfielder Emerson Hyndman is progressing well in his rehab after suffering a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee. Bocanegra said that Hyndman is able to change-of-direction exercises as well as work with the ball.

Midfielder Santiago Sosa is recovering well from hernia surgery performed in late November.

Striker Josef Martinez also is doing well with his offseason training plan. He is among many of the team’s players who have been in or around the training ground following the offseason plans put together by the team’s training and sports-science staff.

“Everyone got to take a big deep breath and is preparing for next year, already,” Bocanegra said. “It’s a really good mentality for everyone.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m., FS1

March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

March 13 vs. Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FS1

March 19 vs. Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 2 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 9 at Charlotte, 3 p.m., ESPN

April 16 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 24 at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN

April 30 at Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 7 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 15 vs. New England, 2 p.m., ESPN

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE