Atlanta United 2 head coach Scott Donnelly spoke with reporters on Thursday morning to update us on an array of topics regarding the team as they prepare for a weekend matchup against Nashville SC.
The last “match” against the Ottawa Fury was rained out after 44 minutes of play. Was that a weird way to go into a break?
SD: Absolutely. That was very strange. I’ve honestly never been a part of something like that at a high level like this. It’ll be strange to have to go back and play the last 46 minutes of that match whenever the rescheduling happens. It was a mental challenge for our players. Overall though it was a good performance, especially on the attacking side of the ball. The message for the group has been that we’re putting together more good performances consecutively. It’s really great to see.
Nashville’s next. What do they do well?
SD: They’ve had quite a good run in the last month or so. I think they were unbeaten in eight or nine matches and they knocked the Colorado Rapids out of the Open Cup. Recently they got a little unlucky in a couple league games, but they’re a good team with some senior players, a lot of attacking talent, and an experienced coach. Their standing in the league table shows that. They’re a franchise that from the start was always building with the idea that they wanted to get an MLS bid and obviously they’ve gotten it now, so it just gives them more steam to push forward.
Any injury updates?
SD: Obviously a little time off helped everybody and got us some recovery. Lagos Kunga will be back with us which will be great. He gives us a really good dimension in the attack that, when we don’t have him, we miss.
Jack Metcalf is really close. We’re just leaning on our medical staff to let us know if he’s available or not. We’re still keeping our fingers crossed there.
George Bello’s injury is a long-term one. We’re waiting to make sure he’s right as a young guy. It’s a precaution in a sense because of the amount of games he’s played over the last 18-24 months between academy duties, a lot of national team duties, and then jumping into our preseason and also the first team preseason. From a larger perspective, it’s about making sure that this isn’t something that lingers with him. It’s somewhere in his hip area, and with a guy that’s still growing like George is, that’s something that pops up here and there.
How closely have you been following the U17 academy’s playoff run?
SD: Very closely. We follow it from a club perspective because we’re all united in what we’re trying to do here and we’re thrilled for (academy director) Tony Annan, the whole academy staff, and the players. Obviously we’re also following it closely because a lot of those players are guys that’ll be in the frame for us going forward. We had a number of guys in training today. They all come in and play well. There’s very little drop-off.
Diego Lopez is signed to the reserve team, but has spent his time with the U17’s and helped guide them to the national semifinals. What have you seen from his performances?
SD: He’s still such a young player. He was always a signing that was a long-term signing. For a guy like him that is still very much growing into his body, it’s a long runway to let him build up to his opportunity to break through. He has really good awareness and he’s done a good job. We’re patient with him. He’s far from his home in California, but he’s settled into his new environment. He has a bright future.
Atlanta United 2 takes on Nashville SC at 8:30 ET on Saturday, June 30.