Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Josef Martinez re-ups with Atlanta through 2023

Leave a comment

Josef Martinez has signed a new deal with Atlanta United, with a contract tying him to the club through the 2023 Major League Soccer season.

Martinez, 25, has 55 goals in 61 games for the Five Stripes since arriving from Torino in 2017, a strike rate unlike anything the Venezuelan had been able to do in his career with the Serie A club, Young Boys, or Caracas.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

That development has him happy to lock down a new Designated Player deal in Georgia, one that certainly would raise his transfer value. From AtlUtd.com:

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

With neither Newcastle nor Real Betis ready to meet Atlanta’s transfer fee for Miguel Almiron, the Five Stripes are in a bit of a bind with a reported deal for expected DP Pity Martinez despite having the league maximum three DPs in Martinez, Almiron, and Ezequiel Barco. Perhaps the European clubs are trying to force Atlanta’s hand.

MLS notes: Zimmerman spurns Europe, Vazquez sold, DC youngster in remission

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Let’s sweep up some good, somewhat-expected, and wonderful news from around Major League Soccer.

DC United defender and Maryland product Chris Odoi-Atsem announced that he is in remission after a fight with Stage Two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Odoi-Atsem was expected to undergo four months of chemotherapy, and the announcement comes just under three months into the journey.

At 23, Odoi-Atsem hopes to rejoin the team after his final round of chemo later this month. He was the 12th overall draft pick in 2017.

Another defender is extending his stay in Los Angeles.

USMNT center back Walker Zimmerman was a huge part of LAFC’s success as an expansion club following his arrival from FC Dallas, and was reportedly ready to test the waters of European soccer with interest from the Premier League, Ligue 1, and the Bundesliga.

But Bob Bradley pushed the right buttons and LAFC will have its 25-year-old mainstay back in the fold via a Targeted Allocation Money contract running through the 2022 season.

Finally, one of the key pieces to Toronto FC’s 2017 MLS Cup triumph is on his way out of Ontario.

Victor Vazquez is going to be sold to an unnamed Qatari club, pending a physical according to TSN’s Kristian Jack.

The 32-year-old scored posted 18 goals and 15 primary assists for TFC.

Major League Soccer unveils 27th team: Austin FC

@AustinFC
2 Comments

Major League Soccer has formally unveiled its 27th team, Austin FC.

The Anthony Precourt-owned team puts MLS one franchise away from its self-imposed maximum of 28.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Precourt unsuccessfully tried to relocate his Columbus Crew to Austin before working his way into an expansion team.

He insists Austin FC will have local investment, and that pleases MLS commissioner Don Garber. From The Austin Statesman:

“We will shortly be announcing that we’ll be welcoming in local Austin partners into our ownership group,” Precourt said. “I’ve had very productive conversations over the last year, and we have very strong interest in a great lineup of local Austinites that will be part of this going forward.”

“If not for those plans, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” Garber told the Statesman. “The final ownership structure will be one that would satisfy our real strong desire and preference to have our clubs have local roots.”

Austin joins Nashville and Miami as announced expansion teams, and AFC will begin play in 2021.

Home of the University of Texas and a myriad of popular musical acts like Spoon, Explosions in the Sky, and The Sword, Texas’ capital is an attractive spot for MLS and will have built-in rivalry capabilities between Houston and Dallas (with San Antonio a long-rumored MLS flirtation).

MLS will almost certainly expand beyond 28 teams, with Charlotte, San Diego, and Detroit among the league’s long-term targets.

Also of note: Alexi Lalas played guitar.

Transfers: Atlanta adds Watford teen; Harkes heads to Scotland

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Atlanta United CEO Darren Eales tweeted that the Five Stripes were about to announce a DP signing, few figured he meant initials.

No, Pity Martinez was not announced on Tuesday, but Atlanta did unveil an intriguing signing in his own right.

Dion Pereira, 19, made a pair of Premier League appearances for Watford at the end of the 2016-17 season, and Atlanta is betting that a move across the Atlantic will transform him into its next prized young asset.

The Watford-born forward scored 13 goals in PL2 last season.


Going the other way, from MLS to Scotland, is DC United and Wake Forest product Ian Harkes.

The son of longtime USMNT captain John, Ian Harkes is 23 and played 37 times with four goals and two assists for the Black-and-Red last season.

Harkes is headed to Dundee United, who sits third in the Scottish Championship and is just three points back of table-leading Ross County.

De Boer takes over Atlanta United with big shoes to fill

Getty Images
2 Comments

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) Frank De Boer was sacked by Inter Milan after less than three months on the job.

He lasted just four Premier League games at Crystal Palace.

Now, after two short-lived coaching stints, de Boer has a chance to revive his career with the wildly popular champions of Major League Soccer.

[READ: Report: Kane could miss at least a month with injury]

The longtime stalwart of the Dutch national team has taken over at Atlanta United, which won the MLS Cup in just its second season while breaking numerous attendance records.

De Boer said it is a shot at redemption, while also stressing that his chances of success are much greater in Atlanta.

“Of course, you have to learn from your mistakes, but also about organizations that aren’t good and organized and structured like Atlanta United,” he said Monday during a news conference at the team’s suburban training facility.

With his two previous employers, de Boer added, “There was no cohesion between all the departments. Everything was separate. Now, we have a feeling, `OK, I don’t have to look around for the dead body in the closet or behind the closet.’ Everything is very clear and structured.”

He represented his country 112 times on the field, most notably delivering a towering 60-yard pass that set up Dennis Bergkamp’s winning goal against Argentina in the closing minutes of a 1998 World Cup quarterfinal. De Boer moved into coaching after his playing career ended, leading Dutch powerhouse Ajax to a record four straight Eredivisie titles.

Taking over at Inter Milan in 2016, de Boer failed to match the success he had in his native country. The Italian club struggled in both Serie A and Europa League competitions, which led to his firing on Nov. 1 with the club mired in 12th place.

His tenure lasted just 85 days.

The following summer, de Boer was hired by Crystal Palace. Despite modest expectations – the team was coming off a 15th-place showing the previous season, finishing just five points above the relegation zone – the coach was quickly fired again after Crystal became the first team in 93 years to lose its first four matches in the top flight without scoring a goal.

Atlanta United is in a much different position, having quickly become MLS’ flagship franchise on and off the field. The team has a clear power structure led by owner Arthur Blank, team president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra – a setup that was appealing to de Boer.

“For me, that is so much easier,” he said. “The 5 1/2 seasons that I was working for Ajax as a head coach … it cost me less energy than the eight months at Inter and Crystal Palace. I was already starting to get gray hairs.”

De Boer certainly has some big shoes to fill.

In two years as United’s coach, Tata Martino instilled an attacking style of play that was a big hit with the fans and hugely successful on the field. The club averaged more than 53,000 per game this season, easily eclipsing its own record, and thrilled the city by capturing the MLS Cup championship in December.

Martino stepped down to take over as Mexico’s national coach.

The expectations remain the same.

“Everybody expects a lot from Atlanta United,” de Boer said. “That’s normal when you’re a champion.”

De Boer’s team is still a work in progress. MVP runner-up Miguel Almiron was expected to transfer to the Premier League during the January window, but no deal has been reached. He reported Monday for the start of Atlanta’s training camp.

River Plate star Pity Martinez announced last month that he had a deal to come to Atlanta, supposedly as Almiron’s replacement in the midfield, but that’s on hold for the moment. United already has three designated players who are exempt from the salary cap: Almiron, record-setting goal scorer and league MVP Josef Martinez, and 19-year-old Ezequiel Barco.

Less than six weeks removed from its MLS Cup triumph, Atlanta United reported for camp to begin preparing for its first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. The team opens with a home-and-home series against Costa Rican club Herediano late next month, just ahead of the MLS season opener.

Atlanta United is eager to become the first MLS club to win the continental championship since the league format began in 2008. Mexican teams have won 10 straight titles, including Chivas’ thrilling victory over Toronto FC last year that came down to penalty kicks.

“We need to have an MLS club win it,” Eales said. “It would be great if that could be Atlanta United.”

But pulling off a CONCACAF title, while also maintaining success in league play, presents a daunting challenge for the new coach. Toronto put its emphasis on winning the Champions League and wound up missing the MLS playoffs.

“We’re not naive. We saw what happened to Toronto,” Eales said. “It’s going to be tough. But we want to be competing on all fronts.”