After signing Machop Chol prior to the start of the 2021 season, Atlanta United once again dipped into their collegiate player pool to make Bryce Washington the 11th Homegrown signing, 2nd to return from college, and the 2nd to return from Atlanta’s original U-18s team.
Welcome home, Bryce! #ATLUTD signs Bryce Washington to a Homegrown contract ⚫— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) June 4, 2021
One thing that is readily apparent in Atlanta’s recent homegrown signings is the prioritization of high-character individuals. Even in his one season with the academy, Washington’s leadership was central to the early success of the program. He was there not only to be a positive influence on his teammates but also on the younger academy players who shared the training fields with him. Washington played in 30 matches during the 2016-17 season, scoring three goals. He led that team to a No. 1 overall national seed and the club’s first United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) Southeast Division title.
After spending his first two college seasons at Rutgers, Washington transferred to Pittsburgh where he made an immediate impact by becoming the rock at the center of Pittsburgh’s defense.
“Bryce was one of the top NCAA players in the country last year and we’re really excited to welcome him back to the club,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “Every player has a different development process and Bryce complemented his progression by having the opportunity to play regularly for four years at a top level collegiately. He’s an athletic center back who will continue to develop with more playing time.”
In 2020, Bryce Washington was a vital element of a Pitt Panthers team that went undefeated in ACC Conference play until the ACC Championship last fall. After coming up just short in the ACC Conference finals, Washington remained with the University of Pittsburgh through their upcoming NCAA Championship title run in May where they fell 1-0 to the University of Indiana in the semi-finals. They finished the season with the best record and ranking in school history, and Bryce Washington was central to that.
We first heard rumors about Atlanta’s interest in Bryce Washington around the same time that Machop Chol returned to the club. There is no telling whether the choice to remain in college for the spring was Washington’s decision or the club’s but the club’s depth at center back certainly benefits from his return. While he still has some work to do to fully fit the club’s tactical definition of a center back, he has plenty of talent and athleticism to help him avoid too many growing pains.
Atlanta United has two major requirements for their central defenders. These players must be able to play on an island and must at least be competent with the ball at their feet. Washington still has some work to do with his feet but he is very capable in defense. He was often the last man back as waves of Pitt players moved forward in their potent attack. Standing at 6’2”, Washington possesses a similar physical frame as Miles Robinson and can be relied upon to play solid defense thanks to his athleticism and his positioning. While he is not as polished as Robinson and is joining the team at an older age, he will be a valuable reserve defender who can bring experience, depth, and leadership to the locker room. With the right coaching and with some veteran instruction, Washington could become a Robinson-lite who could offer a steadying influence at the back while mentoring the brilliant young defensive talent emerging from the academy and the 2s. He has not been prolific on the offensive side of the ball but found the back of the net several times in Pitt’s playoff hunt this spring including this well-placed header.
Washington’s contract is guaranteed through the end of the 2022 season with the understanding that he will likely play most of his matches for the 2s in 2021 and come to camp ahead of the 2022 season ready to compete with George Campbell, Efrain Morales, and Josh Bauer as the primary depth at center back. The club has additional options on his contract for 2023-2025. Washington turns 23 in September so he is still a young player, especially for a defender. Considering the growth of Miles Robinson from his age 22-24 seasons, Washington could be on his way to becoming a special part of this team for years to come.
Welcome back, Bryce! We are thrilled to have you!