Position: Forward & Attacking Midfielder
2021 League Games: 7 matches, 2 starts for 223 minutes
2021 USL Games: 9 matches, 9 starts for 636 minutes
What went right in 2021
When allowed to play as an attacker, Wolff excelled in limited starts. Other than creating positional flexibility to get him on the field and address positions of need for the club, it is hard to understand why Atlanta United insisted on experimenting with Wolff in the central midfield.
When playing as a forward or #10, Wolff looked like a completely different player. He was proactive, aggressive, relentless in the press, and hungry (like a wolf) for goals. He got next to no meaningful opportunities to show off his abilities at the MLS level but made the most of his time in the USL to become the first Atlanta United Homegrown Player to score a professional hat trick.
This hat trick came mostly thanks to his high positioning and aggressive pressure of the opposing keeper and central defenders who lost their composure and cost themselves goals. His second goal, though, came from a fantastic late run that ended with a well-placed shot past the keeper. Wolff finished the season with 6 goals and an assist in the USL and looked like he could have added a lot more if given the opportunity.
What to improve in 2022
The real question for Wolff and Atlanta United is whether he is a tweener, too good for the USL but not quite ready for MLS. This is a challenging question because it is my opinion that Wolff has not been set up to succeed at the MLS level by being played out of position and expected to take on responsibilities in the central midfield like defense and ball retention that are not his strengths or his background.
We could say here that he needs to improve in those areas, but that is unfair to the young player (19 in February) who deserves every shot to impress while playing where he feels most comfortable and confident. Atlanta United needs a player who can step up and be a viable option on the left wing heading into 2022 and this could be Wolff’s best opportunity to earn valuable MLS minutes in a part of the field where he can excel. Regardless of whether the club signs Thiago Almada, Jake Mulraney is the club’s only real option on the left other than maybe Machop Chol or Superdraft picks Danny Bloyou and Tola Showunmi. Wolff could position himself as a first-choice attacker off of the bench with a track record of working relentlessly off of the ball, dragging defenders away from running lanes, and making opposing keepers pay for sloppy distribution.
The club signaled that he may be returning to his preferred attacking position by starting him at the No. 10 in the team’s first preseason match against the Georgia Storm. From all accounts, he looked good and will likely continue in that role for the 2s and as a back-up behind Marcelino Moreno at the MLS level.
2022 Season Outlook
Tyler Wolff is still a very young player but he needs minutes. To avoid him stagnating on the bench, the club must consistently get him playing time that is more substantial than cameos at the end of matches and the occasional runout in the USL-Championship. A good strategy for 2022 could be a solid dose of playing time with the 2s, starts in the US Open Cup, and an expectation that he will be ready to fill in when Almada or any of our other attackers are away on international duty. MLS NEXT PRO could be an ideal opportunity for Wolff once Atlanta United joins the league in 2023 but that is a year away and he must be allowed to show what he can do before then.