Leandro González Pirez was signed on January 26th, 2017 for $2.3 million from Estudiantes de La Plata (Argentinian first division team). It was a good deal at the time as his market value was $3.2 million and has turned out to be a great deal for Atlanta United.
(Courtesy of MLSsoccer.com)
*I will refer to him from now on as LGP as it’s easier*
LGP had a wonderful year last year as the starting center back. He was like a wall on the back line and was a great fit for Tata’s style of play. He was a fast CB who could tackle, intercept, block, and clear well. He had a tackle success rate of 74%, made a little over 3 interceptions a game, 11.4 blocks a game*, and made about 4 clearances a game. One thing he was very good at was his positioning. He almost always seemed to be in the right position at the right time. He was good at keeping in line with the back line, staying with his man, and taking directions from Guzan. He’s a great fit for Tata’s style as he is a very good passer as well. He averaged about 43.2/48.7 (89% success rate) accurate short passes a game and 8.2/12.9 (64% success rate) accurate long passes a game for an overall success rate of 84%. That is an incredible passing success rate for most players and is especially incredible considering LGP is a centerback. His passes also were meaningful most of the time as he averaged 2 key passes a game. The thing I admire about him the most is that at one moment he can make a goal saving tackle at the edge of the 18-yard box and moments later be in the penalty area waiting for a cross. Not only does it speak to his awareness on the pitch but also his incredible fitness as he played 90 minutes every game he made an appearance in. He also scored the first goal in Mercedes-Benz Stadium!
One of my favorite moments this season by LGP was his play against Columbus. Not only does he make a great tackle but he has the prescence of mind to get up and place a wonderful pass that eventually led to a cracking goal by Miguel Almiron.
*Crosses, shots, and passes
Once again, it’s hard to predict stats for defenders but there are things that LGP needs to work on. The main thing he needs to work on is winning aerials. He only wins about 1.5 aerials per game and only has a 53% aerial win rate. Another thing he needs to work on is how much dribbling he does. He is a good enough dribbler with a 72% dribble success rate but he only attempts 1.8 dribbles a game. While that is a good number and ratio for a normal CB, Tata wants a possession-oriented CB who can play out of the back and dribbling is a key part of that. The last thing he needs to work on is fouls. He fouls about 2 times a game and has been known for his rash decision making. He needs to clean up fouls but especially the rough fouls. Last season, LGP received 10 yellow cards and missed two games due to yellow card accumulation. In those matches, his absence was painfully obvious as the five stripes lost to Orlando (3 goals conceded) and let in a late goal to draw vs. Toronto (2 goals conceded). He was second in the league in yellow cards and really needs to cut down on them this year as missing him has a huge effect on our back line. I already consider LGP a top 5 CB in the league with some of these “struggles” but I think he can really solidify himself this year as a top 5 CB with another great year.
(Courtesy of Atlutd.com)
LGP graded out, according to WhoScored, as the best CB in the league but also the 6th best player in the league with an average rating of 7.41. He had an outstanding year and impressed a lot of people, especially considering that he came in as a lesser signing than others. I expect to be back here next year giving him the same grade.