Atlanta United has been busy raking in the hardware over the last few weeks.
There’s a good chance that’s all the major hardware Atlanta gets but it is more than enough for the front office to point to as both a recruiting tool for future players and proof that their expansion blueprint was the best one yet.
Gressel was drafted 8th overall after some brilliant front office moves. Atlanta grabbed Donny Toia in the expansion draft and traded him instantly to Orlando for the 8th overall pick. Atlanta raised eyebrows with many fans by grabbing Gressel. He rewarded their faith with five goals and nine assists while playing all over the midfield.
While Gressel was a great move by the front office, his progress is also a credit to the coaching staff. They moved him around, gave him chances to grow and never gave up on him. Abu Dunladi had an amazing year in Minnesota and many years would have deserved the award. This year, Atlanta struck gold with a winding path all the way back to the expansion draft.
Almiron won his award simply because he was the best player on the field whenever he played. There was a very strong case to be made for Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic or even Josef Martinez, but Almiron was the future of MLS and he showed it game in and game out (something that Nikolic and Josef didn’t do when they went through goal droughts.) Almiron provided us with some amazing highlights this season but it was clear that he didn’t need to score or even assist goals to make a positive impact on the game. He was the end result of brilliant scouting and research done by a team that was determined to push the league into its next phase.
Both of these awards happened because Atlanta did their homework early. Like, before the class syllabus was handed out, early. They knew exactly what they needed to make the squad they wanted and got the pieces. They then put the pieces into place and trusted their staff to allow their players to flourish. And flourish they did.
We frequently commend Atlanta for their work on the field during the 2017 season and recently the front office talk has been theoretical and pointed toward the future. This period of awards is a good time to remember those preseason times when imagination was all we had and to recognize the front office that appears to have somehow played the long game and the ‘win now’ game at the same time.
Atlanta United built a team for the next era and now we know how they did it.
They have an organization for the next era.