It’s easy to track how well a professional sports team whose main goal is to win is doing. Wins and losses will tell one as much. However, that’s not Atlanta United 2’s only concern. Yes, wins on any given matchday are nice, but this is a team that plays a pivotal part in the future of Atlanta United Football Club from a developmental standpoint. They’re hoping to shape young, talented, and professionally inexperienced players into welcomed additions to a first team that is, at its core, ultimately concerned with winning.
The question then is how does the team measure how well this development process is working, especially in the short term before we’re able to truly see these promising youngsters consistently contribute in MLS. How does the team judge these players and what can fans keep an eye out on to get a better grasp of this major objective?
Dirty South Soccer spoke with head coach Scott Donnelly to understand his philosophy in this unique set-up.
“I think one of the big indicators we look at is inclusion in the first team,” said Donnelly. “I think we’ve seen that progress with a few different guys, whether it’s Miles Robinson, Mikey Ambrose, Paul Christensen getting a short run and performing admirably, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu who has been back and forth.
Also, individual performances is an indicator of progress. Jon Gallagher is amongst the top three goalscorers in the USL, and Laurent Kissiedou and Jose Carranza’s ability on the field is really coming along.
Lastly, the inclusion of academy players is of course a big one. Kendall Edwards, Will Crain, Jackson Conway, and Alessandro Castro have all made their professional debuts with us.
The performance that a very young group of players has put in so far is a huge indicator of progress. I told them after last Saturday’s match that I’m very proud of their performance. It was as proud as I’ve been in terms of putting in a really professional, committed performance. That’s just another indicator for us and the fans.”
Overall, the objectives of ATL UTD 2 are already coming to fruition early on in the team’s history. We’ve seen a handful of players contribute for both the reserves and first team, MLS SuperDraft pick Jon Gallagher is making a name for himself in the USL, and with a pipeline of young players quickly finding their professional footing, the decision to add a second team so early in Atlanta United’s existence is paying off quicker than most outside of the club probably expected it to.