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Will homegrown Bryce Washington make an MLS breakthrough in 2022?

More than a 2s defender?

Bryce Washington

Position: Center back

2021 USL-Championship Games: 21 matches, 21 starts for 1,711

What went right in 2021

Bryce Washington joined Atlanta United as the club’s second-ever collegiate homegrown signing. He joined the club later than most of his teammates since the club allowed him to finish his senior Spring season for the University of Pittsburgh in 2021. Washington was immediately sent down to the 2s to get up to professional speed and quickly showed the veteran defensive instincts that earned him his first professional contract.

Washington, though, had to start his professional career playing in a different defensive position than he was accustomed to. Due to an abundance of central defensive talent and a lack of fullbacks, especially right-backs, Washington was converted to a hybrid right-back and right CB for the 2s. He was defensively sound and willingly pushed forward up the flank in possession to combine with his teammates. It looked a bit awkward at first as he learned the position but he eventually became serviceable at the position, freeing Aidan McFadden to fill in at the other three corners of the formation. Washington’s style of play as the right fullback was similar to what the club got from Anton Walkes on his original loan with the club. He was a tall and athletic defender and a willing warrior who refused to be bullied.

Often, teams want to see their incoming college players respond to the USL level within the first season and offer comparable if not above par levels of play against competition at that level. Washington did that and has earned the right to compete for higher placement in the club’s defensive depth chart heading into 2022 after the departure of Josh Bauer and Anton Walkes. He ranked second on the team in interceptions with 49, while winning 111 total duels. That is more than enough to be invited back.

What to improve in 2022

Washington’s biggest area of improvement is similar to that of most of our young players. He needs to continue to adjust to the speed of the game and add tools to his repertoire that can help him in the chess matches defenders and attackers play throughout the match. Washington is already a strong defender with great athleticism, so the continued development of the mental side of the game will enhance his already gifted physical abilities.

Washington also is competent with the ball at his feet and in playing the ball in the air. Depending upon whether the club envision him as more of a right-back option or as a center back going forward, he may need to adjust his preparation to these very different skillsets. As a center back, he is currently the #4 or #5 on the roster in competition with Alex De John for position behind George Campbell. That may be the best place for him to continue developing as a leader with the 2s and used as an occasional bench option with the MLS side.

2022 Season Outlook

In just his second season with the club, Washington faces a critical year. In his original contract with the club, he was only guaranteed two years with the club before three option years set in. This may give flexibility to Atlanta United but it makes every match that much more important for Washington as he tries to show he deserves a roster spot over some of the club’s other emerging defensive academy talent. Washington will likely spend most of 2022 again with the 2s and could serve as part of a rotating group of central defensive bench options for Gonzalo Pineda as the season progresses. So, our prediction is that Washington will get another 15-20 starts in the USL-Championship and maybe 6-10 mostly substitute appearances with Atlanta United including a potential US Open Cup start alongside Campbell.