Almost everything has gone perfectly for Atlanta United during a very important offseason re-tooling as the club attempts to rebound from The Season That Shall Not Be Named. The club locked down the manager they wanted in Gabriel Heinze, a hiring widely considered a stunning accomplishment for any MLS club. And with that very important managerial appointment followed a slew of seemingly smart players acquisitions headlined by by midfielders Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra.
Everything was shaping up well and the two-deeps being created on Twitter, Reddit and spare scraps of paper just had one final hole at center back with a clear expectation of being filled. First it was by David Martinez, a young prospect who recently broke out at Defensa y Justicia. But that signing broke down due to a convoluted transfer saga that wound up with the player moving to River Plate. But the worst case scenario unfolded last week when it was confirmed that the apparent backup plan to Martinez, Velez Sarsfield center back Lautaro Giannetti, failed his physical when Atlanta United doctors found abnormalities in his surgically repaired left knee. “Shite,” Darren Eales surely muttered.
Now, the club is stuck in a situation it was surely trying to avoid. The team is without a top-quality center back to pair next to Miles Robinson, and every team on the globe is aware of the fact that Atlanta is scrambling trying to fill this void on the roster. To make matters worse, the transfer window in Argentina (where the club has clearly been shopping) is now closed. That doesn’t mean Atlanta can’t acquire a player from an Argentine club, but it means that said club would not be able to bring in a reinforcement until the summer transfer window opens. This all adds up to a situation that is going to make it very difficult for Atlanta to add a center back it likes long term and is confident building a team around prior to the 2021 MLS season kickoff in early April.