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Atlanta United exercises contract options on Leandro González-Pírez, Julian Gressel

The Five Stripes declined options on Justin Meram and Florentin Pogba.

Aug 11, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) (left) and defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) react after defeating the New York City FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
Aug 11, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) (left) and defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) react after defeating the New York City FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta United has exercised options for the 2020 season on the contracts of center back Leandro González-Pírez and wingback/midfielder Julian Gressel, the franchise announced Thursday. 

Atlanta also exercised options for midfielders Mo Adams and Andrew Carleton.

The Five Stripes declined contract options for defenders Jose Hernandez and Florentin Pogba, midfielder Chris Goslin, winger Justin Meram, and forward Patrick Okonkwo. Meram is eligible for free agency. Hernandez, Pogba, Goslin and Okonkwo will go on the market via end-of-season waivers.

Defenders Mikey Ambrose and Brek Shea, goalkeeper Alec Kann, and midfielders Kevin Kratz and Jeff Larentowicz are out of contract. Ambrose will be available through the MLS Re-Entry Draft, Kratz will go through end-of-season waivers, and Shea is eligible for free agency.

Atlanta has offered contracts to Kann and Larentowicz. 

Major League Soccer’s deadline to exercise options for next season was Thursday at 1 p.m. ET. 

The loan deal for midfielder Emerson Hyndman runs through the end of 2019. Atlanta has not yet announced whether it will exercise its option to purchase Hyndman’s contract from Bournemouth.

The optioned players remain under contract with the Five Stripes, but they are not guaranteed to be on the roster by the start of the 2020 season. Atlanta still could trade or transfer such players this offseason.

Vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra and manager Frank de Boer will address media via conference call Thursday afternoon and likely will field questions on plans for next season’s roster. 

Gressel has been negotiating a new contract since early in 2019, though progress was not made during the season. Asked about the talks in October, the German-American declined to comment because he did not “want to get upset.” Gressel addressed the topic during Atlanta’s end-of-season press conference Nov. 7. He expressed frustration with a lack of communication from the front office and said he would be willing to move on if the Five Stripes do not make an acceptable offer.

“Obviously different thoughts go through your head and different ideas come to mind,” Gressel told reporters. “I’m sure there are other teams looking at me. I’ve never really heard anything specific. I don’t know if anyone has approached Atlanta United. We only stopped playing a week ago. If there are clubs interested, I’m happy to listen.”

González-Pírez has been playing in a similar limbo. Like Gressel, the center back did not hear anything on a potential new deal during the season. González-Pírez may have to wait longer for clarity. Atlanta has an option on his contract for the 2021 season as well, a source told Pro Soccer USA.

“I don’t know anything right now,” González-Pírez told the Athletic amid Atlanta’s MLS Cup playoff run in October. “Nobody from the club has spoken with me. I want to stay. I’m very happy at the club. I like the people, the stadium I play in, where I train and the people that I work with. As of now, no one from the club has picked up the phone to call me to tell me ‘we want you to stay or we don’t want you to stay.’ I hope they get in touch with my agent, which I assume would happen before the end of this tournament. I hope. I’m just waiting for it to be resolved.”

González-Pírez also told the Athletic he had “an option for one more year.” It is unclear if he was aware then, or now, of the 2021 option on his contract.

Two offseason moves already have affected Atlanta’s roster going into 2020. Last week, the Five Stripes traded Darlington Nagbe to the Columbus Crew for a record amount of allocation money, leaving a large void in midfield. Atlanta lost its second-choice center forward in the MLS Expansion Draft Tuesday night. Nashville SC selected Brandon Vazquez with the eighth-overall pick before trading the 21-year-old to FC Cincinnati.

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