Atlanta United’s 2017 season came to end about a week ago, so I think it’s time we take the Band-Aid off and examine the year that was. There were many good things about The Five Stripes in 2017, so let’s take a look back at them and think about the happy things.
MVP: Josef Martinez
This will almost certainly divide people, especially with news that Miguel Almiron was put on the short list for MLS MVP and also that he was Miguel Almiron. That being said, if we define the MVP as the player who was most valuable to his team, I’m going with Josef Martinez, who was on a record-setting pace when not injured. Atlanta certainly wasn’t the same without Almiron, but when someone misses half the season and still almost wins the Golden Boot, they get the nod (or in this case, the cold, even stare into the crowd).
I would also accept: Miguel Almiron
Biggest Surprise: Jeff Larentowicz
Big Red came to Atlanta in what looked like a depth move and ended his first year a cult hero. When people are getting tattoos of you, something went right. Larentowicz is a league veteran that slid into Atlanta’s 4-2-3-1 formation and frequently dropped back into defense as the attack poured forward. This work was vital in making Atlanta’s fast and brutal attack as lethal as it was. At 34 he faces the same question that Parkhurst does about time catching up to him, but it’s very fair to wonder where this team would be without Larentowicz having, arguably, a career year.
I would also accept: Yamil Asad, Anton Walkes, Julian Gressel
Best Defender: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez
Does anyone disagree? No? Moving on.
I would also accept: Michael Parkhurst? Really LGP was arguably the best in the league at his position.
Biggest Letdown: Kenwyne Jones
This one is unfortunate to write, but not every move works out. Jones was an early signing for Atlanta and for many teams he’d have been a solid contributor. Unfortunately, it was round peg and square hole in Atlanta. In Jones’ defense he was brought on board before Martino had built the team’s philosophy, but it never really worked for more than a game or two. On top of that, Jones couldn’t stay healthy and at times looked to struggle with Atlanta’s pressing style. There are more than a few teams that could use a player like Jones in MLS, it’s just that Atlanta isn’t one of them.
I would also accept: Harrison Heath? (Seriously this was harder than I expected and I’m happy with it.)
Most Undervalued: Carlos Carmona
OK, this just depends on which Atlanta United player’s cult you belong to. Let me introduce you to the offensive lineman of Atlanta United: Carlos Carmona. You rarely heard his name when things were humming along.
Carmona was added to the roster late in the preseason from Atalanta in Italy. He came in and solidified the midfield with Jeff Larentowicz and cracked a few skulls along the way.
You know that conversation people have about the USMNT not having a scrapper after Jermaine Jones? They could use a Carlos Carmona. He was quick to dish out punishment when needed, but was more than a brute. Carmona consistently cycled the ball on offense to keep the team on the front foot and was frequently delivering tackles as the first line of defense to slow down opposing team’s counters.
As the season wore down, Carmona got more and more of the recognition he deserved, and his partnership with Jeff Larentowicz was crucial to United. He’s also a perfect example of how Targeted Allocation Money should be spent in MLS 3.0
I would also accept: Tito Villalba, Yamil Asad
Goal of the Year: Miguel Almiron vs. Columbus Crew
There are many goals to choose from, but Almiron sprinting down the left side of the field, nutmegging a defender and sliding a ball just inside the far post was the sort of thing the Old Masters of Western Art painted. Everything about this goal starting with LGP’s vicious and perfect slide tackle and flawless through ball to Almiron.
I would also accept: Tito Villalba at Orlando City (He’s still upset about that FIFA 18 shot rating)