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Atlanta United signs Venezuelan defender Jose Hernandez

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Will the Venezuelan U-20 international compete for a first-team role?

Toronto FC v Atlanta United FC Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Atlanta United have completed the signing of Jose Hernandez, a 20-year-old Venezuelan left back from Caracas as a discovery signing.

Hernandez garnered attention following his performances for Venezuela in this year’s U-20 World Cup in late spring in Korea. Having only made one appearance in the group stage of that tournament, Hernandez forced himself into the side and played 90 minutes in each of Venezuela’s four knockout-round games. Venezuela won every game in the tournament until losing the final to England 1-0. Venezuela knocked out the United States and Uruguay, and also beat Mexico and Germany in the group stage.

“We identified José as one of the young talented defenders in South America and we’re thrilled that he’s committed to continuing his development with our club,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said in a club press release.. “In addition to his experience in first-team matches at Caracas, he’s played in big matches internationally, including this year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup final against England. He’s an aggressive 1v1 defender and has the ability to get involved in the attack.”

Hernendez played last season for Venezuelan club Caracas FC. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s the same club where his new teammate Josef Martinez got his start in professional soccer. This season, Hernandez started 14 matches, a significant increase in playing time from his previous season in 2016 when he made 10 total appearances with only 3 starts.

The deal leaves the question open as to what Hernandez’s role will be in Atlanta. Will he compete with Mikey Ambrose this preseason for a backup role behind Greg Garza? Will his status as an international preclude him from a role with the first team this season? We’ll find out soon enough.