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Assessing Atlanta United and Minnesota United rosters after MLS Expansion Draft

Photo by Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United and Minnesota United added more pieces to their respective squads in Tuesday’s MLS expansion draft and with the trades that followed.

Atlanta, who already have a significant number of players, took a peculiar approach with its five selections, while Minnesota attempted to fill vacant spots on its barren roster. The outlook on Atlanta’s attacking unit doesn’t change much after Tuesday’s transactions. United is set up top with Kenwyne Jones, Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron. In the coming months, they will have to add a little bit of depth behind those players, but that isn’t a glaring concern at the moment.

The clear focus of Gerardo Martino’s squad building in the last few days has been defense. Michael Parkhurst was brought in to anchor the backline, and the club added two solid defenders on Tuesday.

United drafted Donny Toia with the first selection in the expansion draft and then shipped him off to Orlando City for the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Atlanta also acquired Mark Bloom from Toronto FC in exchange for expansion draft pick Clint Irwin, who returned to Toronto just hours after being selected by the expansion side.

Bloom will be a reliable part of the back line, where he should get a chance to start right away after falling behind Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour on the TFC depth chart in 2016.

Zach Loyd, who was selected third overall in the expansion draft, doesn’t come cheap with a base salary of $200,000, but his experience and versatility in the back line will be key for Atlanta. Loyd can play centerback, or he can shift over the flanks if need be. That’s probably why Atlanta used the third pick on the former FC Dallas man.

There’s familiarity with Mikey Ambrose from general manager Paul McDonough’s time with Orlando City. If he remains in the fold, he’ll compete for a spot in 18, but he’s more of a selection for the future.

The odd choice to select two goalkeepers became clearer once Irwin was sent back to Toronto. Alec Kann will be on the roster, presumably as the backup to Brad Guzan, who has been linked with a move to Atlanta. That leaves Atlanta with a backup goalkeeper at the bare minimum and it gives the first-year club more depth in defense.

Atlanta is much further along than Minnesota after Tuesday’s business. The Loons have more work to do to catch up to their first-year counterparts.

Minnesota more than doubled its roster with five intriguing additions. Chris Duvall, Collen Warner, Mohamed Saeid, Jeff Attinella and Femi Hollinger-Janzen were selected by the club in the expansion draft. Duvall was later sent to Montreal in exchange for Johan Venegas.

Attinella, the longtime Real Salt Lake backup, has been waiting for a starting gig for quite some time, and at a base salary of $90,000, the Loons don’t have to break the bank on a big name in net.

Warner is an underappreciated player. Despite suffering through a long season in Houston, the well-traveled midfielder was one of the Dynamo’s better players. He and Saeid will be a nice pair to work off in the middle of the park. Saeid was projected by many as one of the best players available in the expansion draft and he now has the outlet to prove how solid of a player he is. He is a guaranteed starter if he remains in Minnesota and he could be part of the foundation for years to come.

Hollinger-Janzen showed flashes of brilliance when he appeared on the pitch in limited action for the New England Revolution. At a base salary of $51,500, he is a steal for the Loons, especially if he turns into a solid scorer up front. The 23-year-old striker isn’t ready to lead the line by himself, but if he’s given time to work with an experienced forward, he could benefit from the same path Patrick Mullins has taken.

The focus for Minnesota now turns to Christian Ramirez. The 25-year-old isn’t on the club’s MLS roster yet and the club would be silly not to bring him aboard after scoring 51 goals in the NASL in 90 matches.

Manager Adrian Heath has a long way to go to get his squad ready for the rigorous Western Conference schedule, but Tuesday’s selections are a good start. Warner and Saeid help fill the roles in the 4-2-3-1 and he doesn’t have to worry about securing a first-choice goalkeeper anymore.

Now the real grunt work begins for Heath and his staff as they try to identify designated players and ones that fit into specific roles in the manager’s style of play. We’ll learn much more about the Loons as the offseason goes on.

Comments

  1. Atlanta’s building an interesting product. You know what you’re getting with Kenwyne Jones; the real question is going to be if that young Paraguayan midfielder Miguel Almiron turns out to be the true lynchpin #10 they need to connect front to back, and if the likes of Brandon Vazquez or Hector Villalba can flourish around Jones up top. You can get plenty of hard-driving CDM’s in MLS for not a lot; real quality and creativity at the 9 and 10 spots is a lot harder to find.

    Brad Guzan will likely make them very tough to score on, and he’s going to have Zach Lloyd and Michael Parkhurst in front of him, which is a pretty durn good duo to build around.

    Depends on what else they find and sign, but they’ve definitely begun exceptionally well and you really like the core they’ve already formed.

    Reply
  2. It happened again in a couple of paragraphs.

    Good article though. Seems like both teams did well, but it also seems to me that both teams have a looong way to go. Maybe they have some LeTouxs on their teams that are flying under the radar right now, but will become MLS starters.

    Reply
  3. article states: ” United is set up top with Kenwyne Jones, Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron. ”

    They are both named United.

    Reply

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