It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… AIR FORCE JUAAAAAAN!!!
Until the summer transfer window, Atlanta’s defense had been seriously struggling. Losing Miles Robinson, Brad Guzan and – for a period – both starting fullbacks seriously weakened the Five Stripes. Then the summer transfer window opened and in stepped 6’2 Juan Jose Sanchez Purata who made an immediate impact, using his pace, height and strength to win the ball and keep the opponents out. Not only that, but he was also an aerial threat on set pieces and managed to score six goals in that manner. He’s endeared himself to the fans and is likely to be an important part of Atlanta’s defense for the foreseeable future.
Minutes: 1452 (17 matches played)
What went right?
Purata did a lot of fantastic things despite only being here for half the season. Coming on loan from Tigres due to Atlanta’s desperate need for depth at the center-back position after Miles Robinson’s Achilles tear, Purata entered the team at its most dire and disorganized state. He used his physical abilities – his height, his strength and his speed – to very good effect, but it was his ability to communicate with his teammates that brought a decent degree of improvement to the back line.
After showing his worth, he was a locked-in starter for Gonzalo Pineda throughout the rest of the season. He ended the season in the 77th percentile for tackles won and the 94th percentile for passes blocked, showing his keen eye to cut passing lanes and defensive
His loan with Tigres expires at the end of the year, but I expect Atlanta to either renew it or bring him on a permanent transfer. Given the recent tweet from Atlanta United and Purata, it seems this may already be in the works or close to a done deal.
What to improve on?
Although strong tackling is usually a benefit, it can be a downside when too close to the box since it can easily set up a free-kick goal or even a penalty. Purata conceded several fouls close to the box and gave up two penalties during his 17 games. While it could be argued that some of these fouls were necessary, some of them maybe weren’t and perhaps blocking with his body would have been enough to defend while not conceding a dangerous set piece.
What role will he play in 2023?
I expect him to be the starting right-sided center-back alongside a fully-recovered Miles Robinson with Gutman and Lennon playing on the flanks. Tell me the sound of that back-line isn’t just… *chef’s kiss*.
In terms of his actual play, I don’t expect very much to change. He’ll probably be the center-back that pushes up more to aggressively tackle and win balls while Robinson hangs back a bit and acts as the last man. On set pieces, he’ll continue to be the one to find in the box with his height. Over the offseason, he should have plenty of time to get to know his teammates a bit more and continue to develop solid communication and synergy with them so that the squad as a whole will look much more organized come next season.
Overall Grade: A
Give us your thoughts and grades in the comments below.