Atlanta United: Breaking down short term and long term expectations

Atlanta United (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Atlanta United (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Atlanta United are experiencing their worst run of form in club history

Atlanta United are a club in transition. There is no permanent manager, their previous manager was fired midseason, and only one of their Designated Players is currently available to play. On top of it all, the team is experiencing its worst run of form in club history, something the fans are not accustomed to.

With the team currently in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta are still in a position to make the playoffs. The top 10 teams from the East go through, although the bottom four teams (positions 7-10) must participate in a play-in game to determine which two teams round out the top 8, who then move into a traditional MLS Cup Playoffs knockout.

Despite the constant change surrounding one of MLS’s most successful clubs, fans still expect the Five Stripes to compete. A playoff appearance is expected for a club yet to miss the postseason. Even with this roller coaster of a season, making the playoffs is a bare minimum in Atlanta.

What about other expectations for the near future? Or the long term future of the club? Let’s dive into those expectations.

Short term expectations for Atlanta United

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In the short term, meaning the rest of this wacky 2020 MLS season, Atlanta’s top expectation is to make the playoffs. At this point, with how many teams qualify, it is not out of the realm of possibility for Atlanta to make the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

If Atlanta makes the playoffs, expectations for the performance may be split. Some fans will expect at least a playoff win, if not a run. Others will be satisfied with just an appearance and nothing more.

Beyond a 2020 playoff spot, there are other short term expectations for the fans of this club. Striker Erik Lopez, who signed with ATL UTD 2 over the summer, is expected to appear with the first team.

Lopez signed with the second team under the assumption he’d play with the first team, but that has yet to happen. Fans want to see him and he wants to play, so the fans expect him to play before the season ends.

Through six matches since the MLS is Back tournament, Atlanta are just 1-1-4. The team is expected to compete in every match, which means individual player performances must improve. Ezequiel Barco is the team’s only available DP and his performances have been inconsistent at best. Veterans like Brad Guzan and Jeff Larentowicz must step up and lead the team to perform better. Even players like Franco Escobar, who has been with the club for over two years, must step up and perform better individually on the pitch.

In the short term, playoffs are expected for Atlanta United. But so are better individual performances from their key players.

Long term expectations for Atlanta United

Finding a permanent manager is an obvious long term expectation for fans this season, but it must be said. It’s no secret the supporters want a manager now so the team may begin building for the future. However, team president Darren Eales has been transparent in saying the pandemic will affect that timetable.

Fans want a manager now, but with Eales’ comments and a lack of rumors surrounding the coaching vacancy, fans might have to wait longer than they want. Despite a longer timetable, it is not unreasonable to expect the club to announce a hiring when the season ends. Fans expect a long term solution and a new manager cannot truly put a stamp on their new team without time at the helm.

Roster moves, including the improvement of depth and the offloading of underperforming players, are another long term expectation for this club from its fans. Reports indicate midfielder Marcelino Moreno will join the team from Paraguayan club Lanus. Moreno is reportedly signing as a Designated Player.

One roster move is not enough to appease the club’s supporters for the long term, however. Fans desire an improvement in roster depth and will want underperforming players gone.

Both Manuel Castro and Matheus Rossetto have thus far been disappointing, with both failing to significantly contribute either as starters or as depth options. Adam Jahn and Edgar Castillo were not signed with the intention of contributing significant minutes, but fans will want better depth in place of these players.

The returns are still early for Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres and Jurgen Damm, but if either player doesn’t provide enough through the rest of this season, their names will be added to the list of players fans want to be moved.

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Atlanta’s supporters want long term success, and that success begins now. Current players must prove their worth both with the front office and with the fans. The front office must sign the right talent and show they are making inroads with the hiring of a new manager, or fans will be quick to turn their back on the club. Expectations in Atlanta are high as always, and despite a tumultuous season thus far, those expectations remain.