Atlanta United 2023 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

A new era is set to begin for Atlanta United in 2023.

Iconic record goalscorer Josef Martinez is gone and Garth Lagerwey is in as the new president and CEO, with the Five Stripes moving in a new direction in order to rekindle previous glories.

There’s little room for error for head coach Gonzalo Pineda, either, after missing out on the MLS Cup Playoffs last year – the second time the club has done so in three seasons.

So, here’s everything you need to know about Atlanta United ahead of the new MLS season, including tactics, key players, and predictions.

Giorgos Giakoumakis

Giakoumakis will replace Josef Martinez as No.7. / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

Transfers in


Former Club


Giorgos Giakoumakis



Derrick Etienne Jr

Columbus Crew

Free transfer

Clement Diop

New England Revolution

Free transfer

Quentin Westberg

Toronto FC

Free transfer

Luis Abram



Transfers out


Club Joined


George Campbell



Alan Franco

Sao Paulo


Josef Martinez

Inter Miami

Free transfer

Raul Gudino


Free transfer

Bryce Washington

Loudoun United

Free transfer

Marcelino Moreno

Coritiba FC


Emerson Hyndman


Dom Dwyer


Alex DeJohn


Mikey Ambrose


Dylan Casranheira


Ronaldo Cisneros

End of loan

The odd switch to three-at-the-back aside, Gonzalo Pineda mostly stuck with a 4-3-3 system last season, focusing on dominating the ball and trying to methodically open the opposition up with patient play. In fact, the Fives Stripes’ average possession share of 57.1% per game was the highest in the league.

Pineda’s main issue was a lack of dynamism in attack. Martinez was just as clinical in front of goal as ever, but now lacks the mobility to efficiently contribute in possession. Replacing him with Giorgos Giakoumakis from Celtic should add far mobility in the final third, giving star player Thiago Almada more to work with and possibly unlocking Brazilian winger Luiz Araujo.

Expect the same principles from Atlanta United, but with more flare and pace in key areas.

Atlanta United predicted XI (4-3-3): Guzan; Lennon, Purata, Abram, Gutman; Ibarra, Rossetto, Almada; Araujo, Giakoumakis, Etienne Jr.

Thiago Almada

Almada returns to Atlanta United as a World Cup winner.

Almada returns to Atlanta United as a World Cup winner. / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Thiago Almada returns for the 2023 MLS season a completely different player than the one before, having helped Argentina win the World Cup. He’s the first-ever active MLS player to achieve that feat, while he’s the first active Atlanta United player to make the field at the tournament.

Despite the star names and sheer pedigree on offer in Argentina, Almada deserved his spot. The 21-year-old was the bright spark in an otherwise dim 2022 campaign for the Five Stripes, topping out among his teammates in primary assists (7), chances created (80), carries into the attacking third (116), passes into the attacking third (158) and a number of other key metrics.

This season, Almada’s main focus will be on performing at an even higher level to bring success and silverware at club level alongside his World Cup medal. If he does that, Almada will finally earn that big move to Europe he’s craved for so long.

At the time of writing, Atlanta United are still very much in the middle of their reshuffle, while we don’t quite know how key players like Brad Guzan, Miles Robinson, and Ozzie Alonso will look following long-term injuries.

However, in Almada, they have a strong contender for the best player in Major League Soccer, while Luiz Araujo is capable of incredible things on his day, despite often frustrating with his decision-making. The Five Stripes’ success this season may well come down to how quickly Giakoumakis adjusts to MLS and the sharpness of those aforementioned players.

They should just about have enough to make the Playoffs with room to improve if they make further additions.

Will Atlanta United qualify for the Playoffs? Yes