President Darren Eales, alongside head coach Scott Donnelly and members of the Gwinnett Sports Commission, formally introduced Atlanta United 2 at a press conference inside Infinite Energy Arena Monday morning.
“This is a really important moment for Atlanta United,” Eales said. “We’ve had a lot of important moments over the past three years, but this one is quite near and dear to my heart. When we were looking at player development at Tottenham, one of the key things for us and what we were really pushing for was the ability to have a second team as a bridge between the academy and the first team. For us to officially announce Atlanta United 2, and to have that as part of the pyramid for our young players, is really crucial to us as a club.”
Such an emphasis has been put on building Atlanta United through their academy over the past couple years. To see an additional step be taken to drive this point home is one that few MLS clubs have gone through with.
“This gives us the ability to give crucial playing time in a professional environment to academy players,” Eales went on to say. “We need to give our young players that ability to play in an environment where people are playing with their livelihood’s on the line. That helps give them the stepping stone into the Atlanta United first team.”
One of those young players is 16-year-old George Bello, who officially joined Atlanta’s first team as a homegrown signing at the start of the year, but has been preparing for the upcoming season with the reserves. The highly rated prospect is taking the experience all in stride.
“It’s been great. Ever since I was little, it’s been a dream to become a professional soccer player. Being able to live it out and play with such a talented group of players is really helpful for my development on and off the field. I’m really looking forward to a great season.”
A.J. Cochran, a center back who signed to ATL UTD 2 last month, has a much different role for the USL side in 2018. Even with the young talent expected to flourish with the club, a source of veteran leadership was necessary to help guide some of the more inexperienced players. Cochran didn’t hesitate to accept the opportunity.
“I just wanted to be apart of such an unbelievable franchise. This is only going to be Atlanta’s second year and they’re already one of the premier teams in the country. Once I heard that Atlanta was going to have a team in the USL, it just made complete sense for me. I was extremely excited about the opportunity. I was fully invested in it.”
The man in charge of bringing this diverse team together, Scott Donnelly, made it clear that although they’re a new club, that’s not going to be an excuse they fall back on. With the help of supporters, they want to make noise both on and off the pitch.
“It’s our goal to bring an entertaining product to the field, to bring fans out, and to reward those fans with a really good product on the field. We’re really hoping that Coolray Field is a difficult place for the visiting teams to come and see us. It’s our job to make sure we give the fans a good product and we’re excited to do that and hope to see the stands full throughout the season.”
Atlanta United 2’s season kicks off at home on March 24th against New York Red Bulls II.