During Atlanta United's media day on Monday, technical director Carlos Bocanegra gave us a detailed look into the thought process behind the decision to bring in a USL reserve side that starts play in 2018. He talked about the new adaptability this team will bring to the senior side, the affiliation with the Charleston Battery, and the ability to bring in more international players.
"It creates a fantastic pyramid because you get guys like Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, and next year George Bello, that need a place to play. And if they're not able to break through and play with the first team, can we get them 10-15 games in the USL where they're competing against men? It's a little bit different than going out there and playing on the weekend when the academy's out there and it feels sometimes like a scrimmage. Being able to get these guys in a pro environment really helps them develop in the pyramid and if they can't break into the first team. You'll see a few guys that are at the bottom half of our roster that aren't getting first team minutes play for our USL team, but also the promotion of academy kids and our younger guys for the USL team."
We talked about getting a USL team early on, but we wanted to start with the development of the first team. The real challenge for us and the relationship with the Charleston Battery was it's a 5 1⁄2 hour drive or a plane ride to get over there, so if a few of our players didn't play on Saturday, it was really difficult to get them over there on a weekend to get some game time. The Battery also have their own responsibilities. They're a separate club. It wasn't so much about developing our players. When they could fit them in, they gave them a chance to play. Ultimately though, their job was to win and that had nothing to do with us. Now saying that, they did their best to get our guys in. However, bringing it in-house, we're able to control all the technical aspects of the club. We'll be able to get guys minutes every week to stay on track and develop and try to get first team spots.
You get seven international spots as well with the USL team. It's a great opportunity for us to bring in international players to our club that we get at a younger age that are playing with our USL team, but they're getting looked at by our first team coaches every day as well."
Homegrown signings Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin also thought kindly of the soon-to-be expansion side. When asked about the news, Goslin said:
"It's pretty exciting. This first year we didn't get much playing time, so it's a good opportunity for us to get some games in."
Standing by his friend, Carleton added:
"It's good not only for us, but for the rest of the guys in the academy and the other young guys on the team. It gives them something to chase after kind of in between the academy and first team that's not college and kind of gives them a good place to get some competitive professional matches and I think it'll be good for the club."
The reserve team should do wonders for players like Bello, Carleton, Goslin, Mikey Ambrose, Alec Kann, Lagos Kunga, Patrick Okonkwo, Miles Robinson, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu and Romario Williams for all the reasons Bocanegra mentioned.
Ultimately, it seems that the club just didn't see their partnership with the Battery as a viable option for the foreseeable future. Logistical factors played a major role in that.
It'll be interesting to see what international players the club can bring in, as they've been linked to young South American prospects in the past. Let's see if any rumors come to fruition this time around.
Get ready, Atlanta(err, Gwinnett?). Yet another soccer team is here to make their mark.