We’ve known for some time that Argentine soccer is on fire, and that general practices for MLS GMs behoove those chiefs to reel in South American talent anyway. The best MLS clubs in the modern era were built on this.
Atlanta United, the club that technically does not yet exist in any playing sense, would seem to understand this notion better than some clubs that’ve been around for two decades. Because they might not have a literal team yet, but they’ve already secured a couple signings you’d be hard-pressed to equal this year.
Atlanta United has been slowly collecting warm bodies this year. They’ve already signed Andrew Carleton, among the youngest Homegrowns in MLS history. They’ve snapped up TFC burnout Junior Burgos, and longtime Burnley midfielder Chris McCann, and relatively unknown Ghanaian forward Jeffrey Otoo, and 23-year old Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tabakis.
Those are camp bodies, though, possible starters who help fill all this out but hardly game-changers. This week has been differently. Markedly so.
Hector Villalba was the first domino to fall, supposedly. Argentinean club San Lorenzo announced its 21-year-old attacking midfielder had been sold to MLS and he was already en route to Miami for the physical. Reports held that this was Atlanta United’s doing.
Transferido a la @MLS, Héctor Villalba regresó a Bs. As. y partirá a Miami donde se realizará estudios médicos para luego concretar el pase.
— San Lorenzo (@SanLorenzo) July 12, 2016
Villalba is an immensely talented right winger with a touch that melts butter. Check out his touch at around 1:25 of this video (mute the audio and you’ll thank me later) to settle a long ball and simultaneously knock it goalward in the box, in traffic, to set up a scoring opportunity. This is an MLS 5.0 player, or whatever iteration we’re on in these halcyon days.
Kenwyne Jones followed close behind Villalba. Jones is one of those tractor-trailer forwards, infused with an iron rod up his back after years of grinding in the Premier League with Stoke. He is Blas Perez if Blas Perez was not the most unlikable player in MLS history and slightly more mobile. So… better?
I mean, this video starts with a couple slides that read, “The king, the savio(u)r, the messiah,” so, I guess some people enjoy his soccer?
We’ve been waiting for Atlanta United to establish some sort of firm intent with its signings, and this appears to be the first tornado siren. Expect a bigger household DP name at some point in the next six to nine months, but for now this will satiate Atlanta United’s quietly growing fan base. Jones is a quality upper echelon MLS forward, and Villalba could be the best Young DP (assuming he is tagged with that likely title) in the league the second he first steps on the field.
Just one more reason Atlanta United is getting it right in just about every way before it even kicks a ball.