The club also held onto Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, and if they can keep both healthy, one should win MVP. The offense, if you haven’t gotten the gist, is phenomenal. The defense, with a full year of Brad Guzan in goal, shouldn’t be bad either.
What’s Not To Like: Carlos Carmona, who unexpectedly returned to Chile for family reasons during camp, is a huge loss. It was his tenacity in central midfield, along, to maybe a lesser extent, with Jeff Larentowicz’s, that allowed Atlanta’s attackers to wreck havoc so often last season.
If Atlanta doesn’t bring in a six, they’re in trouble. Nagbe is excellent going forward when lined up in central midfield, but he’s not going to win the ball.
Chris McCann shouldn’t be an everyday starter at this point in his career, and Larentowicz has been lining up at center back thus far in a preseason that has seen Atlanta ship a lot of goals.
If this team doesn’t improve in central midfield, it’s going to be exposed defensively. And how long is Michael Parkhurst – and Michael Parkhurst’s 33-games-a-season health – going to hold up?
Watchability: It’s off the charts. With respect to a bunch of good teams down the years, Atlanta last season was more compelling than anything the league has ever produced.
The support was staggering, and it was only matched by a team that was stacked with young talent, played a million miles an hour, and ran teams off the field week after week. Martinez was scary, and Almiron was mesmerizing.
This year should be no different. The only drawback is that the great Alan Green will not be returning to call games. With Atlanta on national TV 20 times this season, there simply aren’t enough games for him to call to make leaving England worth it. Such is the price of success.
Projection: The defensive midfield situation is a serious concern, but this team is going to score a ton of goals and win a lot of games. It should be a seriously fun year in ATL.
3. New York City FC
What’s To Like: NYCFC has been a surefire winner the from the minute Patrick Vieira set foot Stateside, and last year’s team – which was one of MLS’s best from start to finish – has been improved upon.
That’s largely because Andrea Pirlo’s DP spot is now occupied by 20-year-old Paraguayan playmaker Jesus Medina, who should slide into the lineup in Jack Harrison’s place.