Atlanta United bolsters roster in critical free agency

Midfielder Tristan Muyumba dribbles the ball against defender Aiden McFadden in a drill during training camp. Atlanta United held their camp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to evaluate the roster. // Photo courtesy of Atlanta United

After a disappointing end of the season, Atlanta United is looking to further strengthen their squad in the off-season. In their off-season plan, the Five Stripes need to fill the holes of goalkeeper, defense and the midfield. Atlanta United President Garth Lagerwey has made moves to fill those holes, but further departures might force him to make more additions.

Atlanta United lost multiple key squad members this off-season, most notably defender Miles Robinson. Robinson was the 17s first-ever draft pick in 2017 and has been a key figure in the center of the defense for six years. Robinson is one of the best defenders in Major League Soccer (MLS) and will be a big loss for an Atlanta United side with a defense that conceded the seventh most goals in the league last season.

Not only has Atlanta United lost a key defender this off-season, the team might lose their biggest attacking threat this summer in midfielder Thiago Almada. Almada was one of the best players across the MLS last season coming in third place in the MLS MVP voting. Almada has made it clear throughout the off-season that he wants to move to Europe to play in the UEFA Champions League. Big European clubs like Atlético de Madrid have been rumored to be interested in him, but Lagerway has insisted Atlanta United will only sell Almada if they were to surpass the MLS record transfer fee of $27 million set by United’s sale of attacker Miguel Almirón.

Atlanta United opened the off-season by re-signing key contributors from last season like attacker Xande Silva and goalkeeper Quentin Westberg. Upon arriving mid-season, Silva became a key member of the  Atlanta attack, contributing two goals and two assists in just 10 matches. Westberg was the backup goalkeeper last season and filled in for 10 matches. The 17s also added some key players through the MLS draft. Atlanta United selected goalkeeper Jayden Hibbert with the 19th pick in the first round,  midfielder Javier Armas with the 19th pick in the second round and goalkeeper Casper Mols with the 19th pick in the third round. All three players will provide much-needed competition for the squad and will look to become key players in the club’s future lineups. 

In terms of international talent, Atlanta United brought in  goalkeeper Josh Cohen. Cohen previously played for Israeli side Maccabi Haifa and was named the Israeli Footballer of the Year for 2020-2021. He profiles as a factor in the competition for the goalkeeping position in 2024.

The 17s also brought in defender Stian Gregersen. Gregersen earned a reputation as an effective defender during his tenure with French club Bordeaux. The Norwegian defender will look to become a pivotal part of Atlanta’s efforts to improve their defensive ranking while hopefully filling  some of the void left by
Robinson’s departure.

From the MLS, the Five Stripes signed MLS veteran midfielder Dax McCarty and defender Derrick Williams. McCarty should  add some depth to a rather shallow midfield rotation, while Williams makes sense as another addition to bolster the defense.

Atlanta United has done good business to start the off-season, but there is still more work to do. With the departure of Almada still up in the air, the Five Stripes need to handle that situation in a way that benefits the club and gives themselves enough time to replace one of the MLS’s most dynamic and talented players. 

With 36 days until the start of the regular season, Atlanta United still has to grow on the pitch. Thankfully, the five pre-season friendlies will give coach Gonzalo Pineda a chance to evaluate his best lineup and set Atlanta United up for a successful season.