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Frank de Boer: Atlanta United could sign attacking player before transfer window closes

The MLS primary transfer window closes Tuesday night at 11;59 p.m. ET.

Jan 14, 2019; Marietta, GA, USA; Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer (left) shown with team owner Arthur Blank (center) and Technical Manager Carlos Bocanegra during his introduction press conference at Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United may bring in a new attacking player before the Major League Soccer primary transfer window closes tonight at 11:59 p.m. ET, manager Frank de Boer told reporters Tuesday. De Boer did not name the potential signing.

“Maybe one,” de Boer said when asked if Atlanta is expected to make any moves before the window shuts. “I cannot say much about it, but it’s going to be an attacking player because we expect, of course, Tito [Villalba] and Josef [Martinez] to be gone maybe for quite a long period. So, then we need maybe a replacement in one of those positions.

“If it’s going to be a player, it’s going to be a little bit more up front.”

Villalba typically lines up on the left wing for Atlanta. Martinez is a center forward who broke MLS’s single-season goals record in 2018.

De Boer and Atlanta vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra engaged in a lengthy conversation before Tuesday’s training session.

“Every day we have conversations about players maybe we are interested in,” de Boer said. “It’s just about our game, our players. So we always keep ourselves up to date to each other. Of course, he brings some players to my attention because that’s normal that he knows the players better than me in this competition.

“Of course, I have my connections in Europe and in Holland also, so when I have a player what I think can be very interesting for us, I will give the name, and then our people from the analysis will make video of it and give a good impression of those players. This is how we work.”

Atlanta United has an open roster spot for the senior team, but it currently does not have any international slots available. Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported striker-fullback Gordon Wild is close to acquiring a green card, which would free up an international slot. It isn’t clear how much salary-cap space is available.

A trade within MLS also could be a possibility. Last month, analyst Matt Doyle wrote “a [Darlington] Nagbe trade is still very, very possible.” Nagbe was the subject of preseason trade rumors. Asked about Doyle’s report, Nagbe said he didn’t know anything about it, and “maybe that’s a question for the club.” Atlanta declined to comment, citing its policy regarding transaction rumors.

Nagbe has played an integral role in Atlanta’s midfield this season. He participated in training with the first team Tuesday morning.

Should Atlanta pull the trigger on a move, de Boer will expect any player acquired to contribute right away. Villalba and Martinez appear likely to miss time with their respective national teams during this summer’s Copa America tournament. Attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco is currently away with Argentina for the Under-20 World Cup in Poland. Atlanta has seven games through June 2.

“When you get somebody, it has to be somebody fitting in directly, and I don’t have to train him one or one-and-a-half months and then have a good impression,” de Boer said. “We have to get the player directly ready — if we need him, then we need him, especially in this tough period.

“We are looking for players who can score goals, but also can [play] between lines because a lot of times we’re going to play against teams who play very deep, so then we have a lot of players who have to play in small, tight spaces, so he has to be comfortable.”




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