As one of two expansion franchises entering Major League Soccer in 2017, there's no doubt Atlanta United has been the more ambitious side. Ambition has been the theme for Arthur Blank's brainchild as they've gone all-out to be as successful as possible in Year 1. From starting an academy more than a year before their inaugural season to hiring a world-class manager in “Tata” Gerardo Martino, Atlanta has spared no expense on their entry into MLS.
The talent the club has assembled is unheard of for an expansion side. The biggest question facing Martino and the coaching staff is whether they can get all of these new faces from different parts of the world to jell together. Three South American designated players are supported by veterans from Europe, MLS, and even Liga MX. It's a roster full of possibilities. If they can find chemistry early on in the season it could be a memorable first year in Atlanta.
Head coach: “Tata” Gerardo Martino
Key additions: Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba, Josef Martinez
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1): Alec Kann; Greg Garza, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Tyrone Mears; Chris McCann, Carlos Carmona, Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba; Kenwyne Jones
What we think of our team: We're fresh, bold, and loud, and ready to take MLS by storm.
What outsiders think of our team: “The new kids on the block have splashed the cash like no other expansion team, and the expectations will be high in Hotlanta, but money does not always buy success in MLS.”
Atlanta United’s biggest rival: Orlando City are our natural rivals because of location. There have also been a few minor occurrences, like the scarf incident, that have gotten tempers bubbling already before Atlanta's inaugural season.
Our season hinges on … all of the talented players the technical staff has acquired coming together and jelling as one, from adapting to head coach Martino's system to understanding each other on the field. If they accomplish this, it could be a great first season.
Why this year won’t be like last year: It’ll become real for fans. We get to see our team actually play competitive games.
Key player: Miguel Almiron will be the man pulling all the strings in the midfield for the team. Once rumored to have interest from Arsenal, the Paraguayan international has the potential to be one of the best players in MLS from the first day. His playmaking ability will be integral to Atlanta's success.
Projected finish in 2017: Sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Wild prediction: Andrew Carleton will emerge as the brightest young talent in MLS and earn a U.S. Men’s National Team senior cap at only 17 years of age.