How will Atlanta United respond to losing Carlos Carmona?

Atlanta United has a Carmona-sized hole in central midfield.

After weeks of rumors emanating from Chile predicting the sale of Carlos Carmona to Chilean outfit Colo-Colo, Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra admitted Thursday night to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the team is indeed planning to sell the veteran midfielder.

Atlanta United’s front office now faces a stern test as it seeks to replace a key member of the team in short order. This is exacerbated by the fact that this was not planned. While it’s very much possible that the front office indeed has a backup plan in mind, Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday evening that the team had no plans to move Carmona as recently as only days ago. Now, with the team set to depart for Florida today to begin it’s most grueling and crucial time of training camp, Atlanta is in need of a player to slot into the starting XI and play a crucial role in the team this season.

There are plenty of names we could run through that could be potential solutions. I wrote about several that I found playing Football Manager, and other players with MLS experience like Uri Rossell and Ozzie Alonso are names that have been tossed around. But we could run through names all day. Let’s analyze the position that Atlanta now finds themselves in and set the financial parameters that restrict the club in finding a replacement. If we understand the price range of the type of player we can reasonably bring in, it will help us anticipate the type of player we can expect to see.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact amount Atlanta will be receiving for Carmona. The club, for now, is not saying how much they will receive for the Chilean, but reports from Chile say that it will be for around $1.5 million.

If Atlanta does indeed get this amount for Carmona, that’s some good news. In fact, anything at or above $1 million in a transfer fee would give Atlanta the maximum amount of resources possible to use towards buying a new player — $650k of General Allocation Money. But that isn’t the only financial relief Atlanta will see. Carmona was on one of the most lucrative contracts at the club last year at $725k, funnily enough eclipsing the contract of Tito Villalba, one of the team’s Designated Players. So, adding up all the monies looks like this:

  • $650k GAM
  • $480k in salary cap space
  • $245k TAM

Technically, Atlanta United keeps two thirds of whatever they receive for Carmona (with the rest going to the league). Unfortunately, due to roster rules, Atlanta doesn’t really have a way to use that extra money in the immediate term to fill Carmona’s spot. In essence, Atlanta has the cost of Carmona +$650k GAM. However, Atlanta owes Portland exactly $650k GAM for the Darlington Nagbe trade, so that money could turn out to be a wash.

However you slice it, Atlanta basically has two options. The first is to buy a player on a similar deal that brought Carmona to Atlanta — that is, an extremely cheap or free transfer of a player that is on high wages for a quality player. In this scenario, you’re likely looking at someone who’s a veteran on a team in a top European league who is struggling to get into the side. This type of player is likely to be older (at least mid 20s) with some productive years in their past, but also question marks about why they’ve been forced to move clubs.

The other option is to go the loan route. A loan seems to make much more sense for many reasons. First, it’s easier to make a deal with a team — especially a European team that is in midseason. There are fewer hurdles with agents, and the player is likely to agree to something quickly if it seems like a short term agreement. A loan also vastly expands the quality of player you can receive since loaning a player doesn’t mean you necessarily have to pay 100% of his salary. Atlanta took advantage of this last year with loan deals for Anton Walkes and Yamil Asad — where those teams’ parent clubs agreed to pay portions of the players salaries. If Atlanta wants to buy a player, it will bear 100% of that player’s economic value. It should also be pointed out that while Atlanta had much success with the loans previously mentioned last season, they haven’t yet made any of those types of deals yet this year. It seems like Atlanta would recognize loans as a best practice and look to reach some of those deals again this year.

Atlanta was very fortunate to acquire a player in Carlos Carmona that turned out to be as productive and consistent as he was. If they can pull off a similar feat, it might be the difference in what could potentially be a championship season. Only time will tell.