- By Doug Roberson The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Welcome to the first Atlanta United mailbag of the season to appear on myAJC.
Many thought-provoking questions were sent by you, the ever-curious, always-cool readers and subscribers. I hope I have provided answers that satisfy your appetite for all things Five Stripes.
Because you sent so many great questions, we can turn this into a weekly date, if you are interested.
Before I get into the questions and answers, let me say a few things:
I wasn’t able to answer all of your questions. Typically, I do have the information, but I can’t divulge what I know because it was told to me in confidence, otherwise known as off the record. That’s a trust I won’t break.
Anyway, here we go:
Tee sent the following two questions:
Q. Do you know if ATL UTD 2 will have any kind of television package or streaming plans?
A. Yes, every Atlanta United 2 game will be streamed online. The USL requires that.
The team is working on its specific plans now. Atlanta United 2’s games will be primarily streamed on its website www.atlutd2.com.
Jason Longshore and a to-be-determined partner will call Atlanta United 2’s games.
Q. Do you know who will be replacing Alan Green in the broadcast booth?
A. I do know who will replace Alan Green, but this is one of those facts told to me off the record. I can say that I think you will like the choice.
As you may know, there have been a few changes to the faces and voices calling Atlanta United’s games this season.
Mike Conti has replaced Adam Schick as the radio play-by-play man. Conti will join the returning Longshore in the booth. Longshore will be a very busy man.
By the way, if you missed my tweet: Longshore also has promised that if Atlanta United wins the MLS Cup, he will appear on a Facebook Live with me wearing a giant foam cowboy hat, instead of his usual Kangol. I have no idea why I find giant foam cowboy hats to be so funny, but I do. I think it has something to do with Homer Simpson thinking they are cool.
Green’s departure was confirmed by the team weeks ago.
Matthew sent the following two questions:
Q. What is the likely starting XI for the ATL UTD 2?
A. This may have been the toughest question sent because there are so many permutations to the squad.
Let’s look at the roster for the USL team. It has signed eight players: one goalkeeper (Nicolas Caraux), three defenders (Shawn Nicklaw, A.J. Cochran and Jack Metcalf), three midfielders (Gaston Cardozo, Brian Gambarte and Yosef Samuel) and one striker (Diego Lopez).
There will likely be at least five more players signed and announced before training camp opens on Monday.
That would bring the roster to 13.
Here’s where it gets complicated.
There are several Atlanta United players that will likely receive a lot of minutes with Atlanta United 2 this season: goalkeepers Mitch Hildebrandt and Paul Christensen, defenders George Bello, Miles Robinson, Mikey Ambrose and possibly Jose Hernandez, midfielders Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin and Oliver Shannon, and strikers Brandon Vazquez, Lagos Kunga, Gordon Wild and Jon Gallagher, among others.
The starting 11 for Atlanta United 2 will likely change significantly game to game depending upon the needs and schedule of the senior team.
When the Homegrown Players aren’t in the 18 for Atlanta United, I would think they will be in the starting 11 for Atlanta United 2.
So, here’s an Atlanta United-heavy Atlanta United 2 lineup:
Defenders: Robinson, Bello and one of the Atlanta United 2 players.
Midfielders: Carleton, Goslin, Shannon and two of the Atlanta United 2 players.
Strikers: Vazquez and Gallagher.
Q. Are there any likely signings before the season?
The team has at least one roster spot remaining and is pursuing a replacement for defensive midfielder Carlos Carmona, who was sold to Colo-Colo in Chile.
The team would like to find a like-for-like replacement for Carmona.
No, I have no idea who it may be. That’s the enjoyable and aggravating part of covering soccer: it’s a global game. While the team has dipped into the South American talent pool for many of its signings, it has also found players in Africa and Europe.
I was told earlier this week that nothing was imminent, but things can happen quickly.
Alston sent the following question:
Q. Will Atlanta United limit our starters' minutes in Saturday’s friendly against Nashville SC because of this rain?
A. Not only is there a 100-percent chance of rain, the temperature is forecast to be 55 degrees. You don’t need to watch 15 minutes of weather on TV to know that. Just look at the app on your phone.
Cold and wet seems like a recipe for a full trainer’s room.
Without knowing the forecast, manager Gerardo Martino said on Tuesday that there won’t be an A squad that plays the first half and a B squad that plays the second. He said some starters may go 45 minutes, some may go 60. He didn’t seem worried about the minutes.
Joshua sent the following question:
Q. At any point during the 2017 season, did you lose your "cool" in the press box? Whether that be cheering or frustration...? Or do you have any interesting press box stories?
A. This seems like a good opportunity to clarify the role of professional journalists. We aren’t supposed to have any rooting interest in the outcomes of the games, or the fortunes of the teams we cover.
Therefore, there isn’t supposed to cheering or frustration in the pressbox.
Now, you will sometimes hear me groan if I have to re-write a story on deadline because the outcome has changed in the final seconds. That happened a few times last year: the first two Orlando games, the finale against Toronto, the game at Sporting KC, for example.
That groan is just a reflection of my laziness than anything else.
There was one particular game in which I acted like a butthead toward a group of people that I shouldn’t have. I later apologized. It was a bad day.
These are my two favorite pressbox stories from last year:
The second game was at Minnesota. For those who weren’t there, it was cold with a forecast of snow.
There were some flakes at the beginning of the game.
By the end of the first half, because of the press box being in the corner and the snow pouring out of the sky, I couldn’t see the opposite end of the pitch. I could see the blur of players because Atlanta United wore its red-and-black kit, and I could see the ball, but that’s all I could make out.
Josef Martinez scored a hat-trick in the game. We were waiting for him in the locker room after the game, and he walks in shivering. He shivered for at least 10 minutes.
Turns out, TV wanted him to do a postgame interview and didn’t want him wearing all of the cold-weather gear. So, he had to stand out in the cold and snow in mostly just his kit for a few minutes.
My second favorite story is a little odd, but what the heck because this person remains a mystery despite my efforts to track them down on social media.
Atlanta United played at Columbus during the summer.
Sitting in the row directly in front of the pressbox was an Atlanta United fan and his girlfriend or wife. He was decked out in the teams’ gear. He also wore a hat, sunglasses and sported a full beard. He was surrounded by fans of the Crew
Well, Atlanta United beat Columbus pretty badly in the game and this fan was giving it to Columbus’ fans the whole game.
He had the whole professional wrestler schtick going. He blew kisses. He told Columbus’ fans to sit down. He gave out a few “Whoos!”
He kept this going the whole game.
Watching him became more entertaining than watching the game and most of the people on our side of the press box took advantage.
We dubbed him, “Bearded fan,” on twitter.
I still don’t know who he is.
And then there is Joel, the @#$@#$@#$ security guard at Yankee Stadium. But that may be my least favorite story.
Eddie sent the following two questions:
Q. What is your predicted starting line up with what we know so far?
A. Great question, Eddie. Thanks.
Here’s my prediction, bookmark it so you can tell me if I was right or wrong:
Goalkeer: Brad Guzan.
Defense, from right to left: Franco Escobar, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza.
Midfielders: Jeff Larentowicz, Darlington Nagbe and Miguel Almiron in the three-man diamond.
Forwards: Ezequiel Barco, Josef Martinez, Hector Villalba.
I think Larentowicz will be the only defensive midfielder, with Almiron pushed up to play closer to Martinez and Nagbe serving as the bridge between the Ginger Ninja and the Paraguayan Powerhouse. (Those are silly nicknames, but I didn’t want to write their full names again.)
Q. When do you expect the secondary kits to be released?
A.: This is one of those things that I know but can’t divulge because I was told off the record. Sorry.
Damon sent the following question:
Q. There is a very open debate right now with MLS rules and what it would take to buy Josef Martinez down out of DP status and to use TAM instead. Is it possible and what it would take since he makes less than the $1.5 Million TAM limit?
A. TAM is Targeted Allocation Money, a financial tool that exists in MLS and no other league as far as I know.
According to the MLS website, “Targeted Allocation Money is a strategic investment that provides every team with increased resources to add, or retain, players that will make an immediate impact on the field.”
“Targeted Allocation Money may be used to sign new or re-sign existing players whose salary and acquisition costs are more than the maximum salary budget charge but less than $1.5 million.
“Targeted Allocation Money may be used to convert a current Designated Player to a non-Designated Player by buying down, on a prorated basis, his salary budget charge to at, or below, the maximum salary budget charge. If Targeted Allocation Money is used to free up a Designated Player slot, the club must simultaneously sign a new Designated Player at an investment equal to or greater than the player he is replacing.”
Each MLS team has as much as $4 million of TAM that it can spend this season. The league provides $1.2 million. The teams have to provide the remainder, should they need to.
Returning to the question asked about Martinez, who had a guaranteed salary of $1,041,310 in 2017.
Using that salary, Atlanta United would have to spend $560,685 in TAM to buy down Martinez’s salary and free up a DP slot.
Sounds easy, right?
First, the team can’t buy down Martinez unless it is signing a new DP at an investment equal to or great than the player he is replacing. The team hasn’t said which of the three DPs it bought down when it signed Barco, but I’m confident it was Villalba.
Second, and this is why buying down Martinez is impossible:
Atlanta United hasn’t shared Martinez’s transfer fee or length of contract.
Transfermarkt.com lists his transfer fee paid by Atlanta United to Torino as approximately $5 million.
Because Martinez is a DP, that $5 million has to be averaged out, along with his salary of approximately $1 million per year, over the length of the contract.
Let’s say hypothetically Martinez signed a five-year deal for $1 million per year. That’s $5 million, plus the transfer fee of $5 million, for a total of $10 million. Averaged over five years, that’s a hit of $2 million. That’s past the $1.5 million budget charge that TAM can be used for.
Martinez would have had to have signed a 10-year deal at a flat $1 million per year salary to get under the $1.5 million TAM ceiling. There’s no way that happened.
Carlos sent the following two questions:
Q. How did the rumors about Lucas Olaza get started and is the team considering him?
A. Beats me.
If you missed it, Atlanta United was reportedly interested in adding left fullback Lucas Olaza for an alleged transfer fee of $9 million.
There are about five things wrong with the report.
First, Atlanta United just recently acquired Greg Garza and Jose Hernandez, who are both left backs.
Second, Atlanta United has no DP slots remaining, which would be necessary for that transfer fee.
Third, no team in MLS is going to spend $9 million on a left fullback.
Fourth, Olaza is valued at approximately $500,000 on transfermarkt.com.
Fifth Atlanta United also has Homegrown player George Bello, who is considered one of the best left fullbacks in U.S. academy system.
Some agents will sometimes float rumors involving some teams in an attempt to drive up the value of their clients.
Remember last year when Atlanta United was linked to a goalkeeper who played in Chile’s second division?
No, Atlanta United isn’t considering him.
Q. Is this Almiron’s last season before we send him off to Europe?
A. If Almiron matches what he did last season with nine goals, 14 assists and a knack for unlocking defenses with mazy runs it seems likely that he may have suitors.
The key is the transfer fee. Atlanta United reportedly paid $8.5 million to Lanus to acquire Almiron’s rights.
To recoup that investment and be revenue-neutral on the transaction, the team would need to sell him for at least $11.9 million because MLS is supposed to receive 30 percent of transfer fees on players sold, and the player is supposed to receive 10 percent.
The recent selling of Cyle Larin by Orlando City to Besiktas may have forever changed the transfer rules in MLS, though.
Having said that, in Atlanta United’s short history is shows no tendency toward being satisfied with revenue neutral on sales.
It made approximately $2 million in sales on two players (Carmona and Yamil Asad) it paid nothing to acquire. That’s good business.
Gregg asked three questions.
Q. Is there any hint about anyone getting green cards this spring? If yes, whom?
A. I’ve covered this one on twitter, but let’s revisit.
Hector Villalba secured a Green Card a few weeks ago.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez said the team is working on one for him. He missed training earlier this week for what the team said was “personal reasons.”
Josef Martinez and Romario Williams also missed time in training this week for “personal reasons.”
The team won’t say, but I would bet my daughter’s cell phone on those players receiving Green Cards before March 1.
Q. Are there any rumors or rumblings about who the team might be looking at to replace Carlos Carmona?
A. No. I covered this one above.
Q. Have you heard anything about the total number of season tickets sold this year?
A. The team isn’t ready to release the total. A spokesman did say they’ve sold more than last year, so the number is more than 36,000.
The soccer configuration in Mercedes-Benz Stadium is 42,500. The team would like to keep some walk-up sales for each game, so the season tickt number will likely not surpass 42,000. They’d have to sell quite a bit between now the home-opener against D.C. United on March 11 for that to be a worry.