Atlanta United 2 opened its preseason on Tuesday and manager Scott Donnelly has a few goals for the USL squad in its inaugural season.
The team wants to play well. The team wants to win. And, probably most importantly, it wants to get players ready to make the jump to Atlanta United and the MLS level.
“This is a bridge team,” Donnelly said at the team’s training ground in Marietta. “We want to compete, we want to compete successfully, we want to put a good product on the field.
“At the same time, we are here to provide the best possible support to the first team, the first team staff and the players.”
Atlanta United started ATL UTD 2 as a USL affiliate so that its plethora of younger or less-experienced players could gain valuable experience in professional environments. The team will play its first game on March 24 against New York Red Bulls II at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. It will train in Marietta.
Atlanta United has five Homegrown signings as well as several younger players who need playing time to further their career. Few received minutes with the first team last season for a variety of reasons, including the senior’s club push to secure a playoff spot, as well as some of the players having conflicting schedules because of U.S. youth national team responsibilities.
To help prepare those players for the senior team, Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said that ATL UTD 2 will play the same style as the senior team with the same formation: a high press from a 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 lineup.
Donnelly said the system is one he has coached throughout his career, which includes most recently time as an assistant with the U.S. U-18 national team.
“I believe strongly in that style of play,” he said. “It’s part of the reason why I’m here.”
Donnelly described it as a forward, assertive style and that he will make sure that Atlanta United 2’s players will be versed in its intricacies.
He said Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino and his staff have been welcoming in showing Donnelly how they work. They’ve watched video, shared exercises and activities.
“Which is great because obviously a trainer of his stature has had a lot of great experiences that my staff and myself can learn from,” Donnelly said.
During the teams’ seasons, they will discuss any changes that Martino is considering to the system and formation so that Atlanta United 2’s players can also have that information.
“We are lucky to have a beautiful home at the training ground where there’s a lot of interaction,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly said the professionalism of the club, which includes the facilities, are among the reasons he accepted the job as the Atlanta United 2’s manager. He said it’s an ideal position in a professional environment, with professional players but also an environment of development.
“It’s a little bit of a sweet spot between the academy and the first team,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be here and thrilled to have the responsibility of taking this team.”
Atlanta United 2 is expected to have as many as 13 players on its team. The rest of the roster for practices will consist of the Academy players who are the most ready to practice against professionals, and/or some of Atlanta United’s players.
The game-day rosters should include the 13 players, as well as those who won’t be in Atlanta United’s 18 for that week’s game. Some of the youngers players expected to play with Atlanta United 2 include the Homegrowns, Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, Lagos Kunga and George Bello, and the picks in the past two SuperDrafts, Miles Robinson, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, Jon Gallagher and Paul Christensen, as well as less-experienced pros such as Brandon Vazquez and Jose Hernandez.
“Part of our job is to make our players prepared to make the jump, if there is the possibility to make the jump to make sure that if there are player from the first team playing with us to stay sharp so that we are giving them the type of game setting and training setting that they can go seamlessly back to the first team,” Donnelly said.