Atlanta United traded its 7th overall pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft on Wednesday to Real Salt Lake in exchange for $175k of General Allocation Money as the team continues to add funds to hopefully improve the roster.
The move comes on the heels of a trade announced last week that sent Homegrown defender George Campbell to CF Montreal for upwards of $600k GAM that could rise to $900k in the future if incentives are met. The moves signal an intent from the club to stockpile as much allocation money as possible after there’s reason to believe the club headed into the offseason in a bit of a budget crunch (while admitting that no one can accurately know exactly how much allocation money any team has available in a given moment).
Several interesting prospects were available for Atlanta United as Dirty South Soccer’s Grey Gowder wrote about here. Real Salt Lake selected University of Washington forward Ilijah Paul with the pick, who was a potential target as Gowder described him.
Washington forward Ilijah Paul proved to be one of the best offensive players in the country. During his first full season of college soccer, Paul led the Pac-12 after the regular season will 11 goals and four assists on the season on his way to becoming the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, Pac-12 All-Conference First Team, and a MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist. A Gilbert, Ariz. native, Paul spent time with the Real Salt Lake Academy and Barça Residency Academy when growing up and saw the field for FC Tuscon as well. At 6 feet tall, Paul has the size to play the role of a target forward but also the mobility to contribute to an active press scheme. Paul returned to play after missing seven months with a broken foot and hamstring issues. “Last year, he was never fully fit,” coach Jamie Clark told the Seattle Times. “He worked tirelessly [for this season]. He checked every box in terms of preparation.”
What we can infer from the move is that Atlanta is comfortable with the young talent already on the roster that has been built through past SuperDrafts as well as its own Academy. Those players include the likes of goalkeepers Vicente Reyes and Justin Garces; defenders Caleb Wiley, Noah Cobb and Aiden McFadden; and forwards Jackson Conway, Machop Chol and Erik Centeno. It’s also worth noting that the team has been quite successful in comparison to other teams in finding players in later rounds of the draft, including McFadden and Austin FC’s Jon Gallagher.
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