According to Doug Robeson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Stephen Glass is set to return as the head coach for Atlanta United 2.
Glass received an unexpected promotion to Interim Head Coach of Atlanta United’s 2020 trainwreck following the departure of Frank De Boer. While the season still ended in shambles, Glass managed to draw out a product on the field arguably more akin to soccer than anything we saw under FDB at the MLS IS BACK Tournament. According to reporting in the AJC, Carlos Bocanegra always planned for Stephen Glass to return to manage Atlanta United 2 following the conclusion of his Interim appointment. The team and the front office seem to really like Glassy and in spite of his being tactically overwhelmed at times in the 2020 season, Glass is set to return as a key cog in Atlanta United’s development machine.
While with the 2’s, Glass was tasked with the thankless job of keeping MLS Reserves match-fit, trialing a USL team of potential future reserves, and attempting to find minutes for Atlanta United Academy’s promising young players all while conforming loosely to De Boer’s tactical milieu. In both 2019 and early 2020, we routinely saw unbalanced sides in a roughly 3-4-3 formation trotted out and run out of the stadium due to a lack of chemistry and tactical familiarity. During the pandemic’s roster freeze, that changed. Unburdened by the duty of finding reserve minutes and forced to innovate a tactical identity for a young and professionally inexperienced 2’s side, Glass and later Tony Annan instituted a quick attacking form of soccer that had the sort of youthful zeal and fearlessness that seemed all-but-absent from the MLS side. Once Glass left to replace FDB, Annan’s side further embraced that identity in a 4-3-3 free-flowing formation that sought to harass and overwhelm opponents with a tenacity that garnered widespread respect from older veteran teams across the region.
In 2021, Glass will be tasked with adapting the new tactics of Gabriel Heinze. This should be a more natural fit for Glass and for his players and should yield more attractive results on the pitch. While we should remember that victories are not necessarily the end-goal for the 2’s, playing quality minutes is. Heinze projects to be a more involved manager across the entire Atlanta United system so we should see more of his fingerprints on tactics, player usage, and academy call-ups in 2021. While many ambitious young managers may bristle at that sort of oversight, Glass seems to be humble enough to understand his place in this system and understand his value in executing his part of that grand vision.
Though Tony Annan has returned to his post as the Academy boss, fans should expect a greater collaboration between Annan and Glass’s staff in 2021. Fans took notice when the 2’s fielded the youngest matchday sides in club history many times over under Annan last fall, and those players thrived. Players like Will Reily, Caleb Wiley, Garrison Tubbs, Coleman Gannon, and Jackson Conway excelled while David Mejia, Jay Fortune, Matthew Edwards, and Efrain Morales made impressive starts to their careers. As the club’s vision for homegrown players and how the club’s support infrastructure for those players continues to evolve, an academy player-dominated 2’s side seems more realistic. Talented youngsters like Nigel Prince, Brendan Lambe, Italo Jenkins, and Jonathan Villal all could earn their first USL caps in 2021. The 2’s may also host a new class of recent college players seeking to break into the professional ranks, plus a few promising prospects from South America.
2021 will be a transformative season for the club at all levels of competition and Glass’s 2’s side should be one to watch for entertaining young soccer brimming with potential. Fans who tune into 2’s matches this season will witness the exciting future of this club and the next wave of intriguing talent seeking to break into Heinze’s Atlanta United first team.