In this three-part series, we’re going through Atlanta United’s entire roster and guess how likely it is a player will leave before the start of next season. This post is Part 3 of the series after we first covered the goalkeepers and defense in Part 1 and the midfield in Part 2. It’s important to note that contract info is not readily available in most cases and we’ll be guessing at a lot of the statuses of players heading into the winter.
Rob: I just can’t envision a scenario this offseason that leaves every party with a vested interest in this saga happy. Whether it’s Josef, the club, or the fans, someone is going to come away feeling hurt. The situation feels almost irreparable at this point with Josef not the Josef of old and showing blatant signs of disrespect and vitriol towards the powers that be through social media and behind the scenes fits of rage. While the fans will be the ones to lose out, it may be in the best interest of player and club for them to part ways somehow. I feel like there’s a good chance a club out there, whether it be domestic or abroad, that’s more than willing to take a chance on Josef. Chances of leaving: 65%
Joe: Josef has shown down the stretch of this season that he is still very capable of scoring goals in MLS. What hasn’t been shown is his ability to play for long stretches — be that 90 minutes in a game or playing 60+ minutes of multiple games on end including midweek fixtures. That will be the big question mark with him going forward in his career, which I expect to be in another city.
Based on conversations with multiple sources over the recent weeks and months even into last year, I’ll say this: Atlanta United is ready to move on from Josef. And they’re right to think that way — as even the biggest fans of Josef will admit that it’s hard to have him taking up a DP spot. But even beyond the money or the roster slot, I think this organization needs to rebrand itself around some other identity as it has been inextricably intertwined with Josef since its inception. Darren Eales’ departure makes it the perfect time to kickstart this needed change.
For his part, Josef seems ready to move on. In recent weeks he’s shown open disrespect to teammates and coaches (the chicken and rice incident) and the front office/Carlos Bocanegra on social media. I hope he’s okay in his personal life, but the behavior is really detrimental to the culture that Gonzalo Pineda is trying to establish at the club. Despite anyone’s love for Josef and the memories they have of him, this behavior is actually bad for the club. Josef didn’t talk to media after his final home game, which seems about par for the course. He is checked out. This is not taking a side, this is just the reality of the situation as I understand it.
In the broader picture as it relates to Carlos Bocanegra, I think the club will move on from him as well in due time as well. The vacant president position means Bocanegra will likely stay on in the short term (probably through the offseason at least), but just as the club is ready to turn the page with Josef, the same can be said for Bocanegra. His mere presence in his role — after complete upheaval and dismal results since 2019 — engenders vitriol in the fanbase and ultimately makes it difficult to market the team and sell tickets. Technical Directors in MLS have been let go for a lot less.
It’s hard when the end comes for legendary athletes who have the connection to fans like Josef does. It’s even harder when a major injury changes a player’s career in a major way like Josef has suffered. I would say it’s time to rip the band-aid off, but what has actually happened is a slow, painful peeling for far too long. We’ve just run out of band-aid at this point. Chances of leaving: 85%
Rob: He just got here and is a useful spark plug off the bench. Can’t see any scenario in which he’s not with the club next season unless something crazy happens. Chances of leaving: Less than 1%
Joe: Yep, only thing I’ll add is I wouldn’t be shocked for him to be re-designated as a non-U22 initiative player (the mechanism on which he was acquired). Chances of leaving: Less than 1%
Rob: It could be argued that Ronaldo was a bit too good at his job of being the backup striker. He won over the affection of Gonzalo Pineda and was given more minutes than anyone expected. While I think everyone agrees that he has no business being the starting striker for this team, he seems to fit the backup/depth role pretty nicely. The question is, do you want to waste an international slot on that type of player? Chances of leaving: 40%
Joe: Damnit, that last question is a great point. because otherwise, it was a no brainer for me that he would be back (more bc of his importance as a “locker-room guy” etc). I’m actually lower on Cisneros as a player than most. He’s fast, but he’s not that fast. He’s not technical. He’s not an aerial threat. If this were about me, my rating here would be different. But ultimately I think Gonzalo Pineda and the front office really likes what he brings. Chances of leaving: 25%
Rob: It was an abysmal season for Luiz, I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. After starting the season with so much promise, his production took a nose dive and never recovered. As much as I’d like to see that DP slot utilized more efficiently, I just can’t see how the club would get someone to take him off their hands with as much as they paid for him. This was a huge investment and it won’t be easy to recoup it. It seems like another hold and pray for a recovery in form situation for yet another high-priced signing. Unless, of course, the club want to swallow their pride admit they messed up. But their track record proves that’s very unlikely to happen. Chances of leaving: 15%
Joe: This market is already depressed, so where are you going to realistically move Araujo? You’re not going to trade a DP within the league when he just came in the last 18 months on an eight-figure transfer fee. I think best case scenario is he gets off to a great start to the season and interest arises around midseason next year. Hard to see a suitor for him. I’m not totally writing him off yet though. I want to see him playing with a dynamic striker leading the line — something he hasn’t had yet in Atlanta. Chances of leaving: 15%
Rob: Joe, I’m just going to let you explain this situation to these people, in case they don’t listen to Five Stripe Final. Chances of leaving: 95%
Joe: There’s not all that much to explain, to be honest. This was a pure miss of a signing. On loan at Banfield (a deal that was its own special mess), he hasn’t played more than 45 minutes in a game since April. At this point, he’s luck to see the field at all. His last minutes were a month ago (September 11), In total in 2022, he’s played 418 minutes. Edwin Mosquera has played 302 minutes for Atlanta United alone since making his debut in August. This wouldn’t be so bad if Lopez was cheap, but he’s not. He’s listed in the 2022 MLSPA salary guide of earning $528k guaranteed. If they can’t offload him somewhere on a free transfer, I expect Atlanta United to use their buyout clause here. Chances of leaving: 99%
Rob: Everyone loves Chop. He just seems like the best dude in the world and is always palling around with someone on the team. Unfortunately, his spot on the roster is in flux and his place in the pecking order is quite low. He’s still a Homegrown player and a useful squad player. But not sure he’s anything more than that at this point. Chances of leaving: 30%
Joe: I think his play on the field (the little amount that there has been) has been slightly overrated by many fans. People want to latch onto any good action he has because he’s so easy to root for. But I don’t know if he’s made enough of an impact to justify him staying. And he graduated from the college ranks, meaning he’s well on in his years (he’ll be 24 in November). He’s two months younger than Juanjo Purata! Chances of leaving: 60%
Rob: Jackson’s situation is pretty similar to Chop’s except there are much less spots on the field he can play. It’s pretty clear from this season that he’s not in the first team’s plans whatsoever. It seems pretty unfair to keep him around to be a USL guy if his ceiling is higher than that. Chances of leaving: 50%
Joe: While I’m on the age thing, important to remember that Jackson is not even 21 yet (he turns 21 in December). Having said that, it feels like the point where the club and Conway need to have a conversation about what his role will actually be. I think this year would’ve been the perfect time to give him that opportunity, but it’s clear they don’t see him as being at that level yet. I think (and have thought) that a loan outside the country would do wonders for his development. If I were in the front office, I’d not give up on him yet — especially while his value now is low. I’d try to extend his contract and send him on loan, similar to Tyler Wolff. But I’m not considering a loan as “leaving.“ Chances of leaving: 25%
Rob: I went from utterly shocked at seeing a social media post of him at Atlanta United training in preseason to clamoring for him to get more minutes. It was a wild ride on the Dom rollercoaster. As much as I’d welcome him back, he always seemed like a short-term solution. I think he’ll find another club within MLS, especially if his pal Josef isn’t around anymore. Chances of leaving: 65%
Joe: This feels like a player that the club might as well cash in on. His performance gives Atlanta leverage, because he’s shown that he’s a player that can still score in this league — which is what every team is looking for. Chances of leaving: 75%
Rob: Barco’s loan to River Plate isn’t going very well with minimal production so far. Reports say the loan was for two seasons, but who knows what that means as things get lost in translation all the time. The one thing I know for sure is, there isn’t any room for him in Atlanta finance or roster-wise. He’ll either have to stay on loan or the club will need to move him out permanently. Chances of leaving: 95%
Joe: I think he’s just going to stay on loan at River next season. Having said that, he’s not done much of anything to generate interest and River Plate is never going to trigger the purchase options on him. Another very bad look for the front office — as they look destined at this point to lose quite a bit of money on the transfer fee that initially cost them a reported $15 million. Chances of leaving: River – 5%, Atlanta United eventually 95%