Atlanta United 2, Atlanta United’s USL affiliate, announced Monday its first four players: A.J. Cochran, Diego Lopez, Jack Metcalf and Yosef Samuel.
“ I couldn’t be happier to start building our roster with this group of players, ” coach Scott Donnelly said in statement from the team.
Cochran, 24, was selected by Houston Dynamo in the 2014 SuperDraft. Cochran, a central defender, made 26 MLS appearances in two seasons for the Dynamo before moving to USL, where he made 49 appearances with St. Louis FC.
Lopez, 16, has played for the U.S. Under-15 and 17 teams. The forward comes from Chino, Calif.
Metcalf, 26, made 40 appearances for Charlotte in the USL from 2015-16 before moving to play with Bangor City in Wales. He is a defender. The native of Liverpool, played in the academies of Liverpool and Wolverhampton.
Samuel, 20, made 20 appearances for Bethlehem Steel in the USL. He grew up in Ethiopia before moving to Atlanta in 2007.
The team will play at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. It will begin training Feb. 12 at Atlanta United’s facility in Marietta. Its season will start March 24 against Red Bulls II.
The team is expected to sign as many as nine more players.
Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said Atlanta United 2, or ATL UTD 2, will use the same tactics as the senior team. The academy teams also are using those tactics.
“We want to vertically integrate the whole squad,” Bocanegra said. “Makes it easier for an academy player who is 19. He takes that step up to the USL team, and he’s very familiar with how training works, the style of play, the philosophy, to take that next step up to the first team.”
Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said he and his staff will be watching Atlanta United 2’s players.
“It’s a good platform for some of the younger guys to earn a spot with the first team,” he said. “Beneficial for the Academy. Not such a big jump. Now there’s an intermediate stop.”
Atlanta United 2’s game-day rosters likely will include several Atlanta United players, depending upon the two teams’ schedules and who Martino wants to include in his plans for those weeks.
The first team includes five Homegrown players, Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, George Bello, Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo, as well as draft picks Miles Robinson, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, Jon Gallagher, Oliver Shannon, Gordon Wild and Paul Christensen.
Martino said Monday that Carleton could see minutes split between Atlanta United and Atlanta United 2 and that Goslin would likely play mostly for Atlanta United 2. He wasn’t asked about the other less-experienced players, but it seems likely that their game experience this year will consist of minutes in USL.