UPDATE #2: December 28th
One week after reports first surfaced of this impending move, Atlanta United 2 announced the transfer of midfielder Jonantan Villal to Liga MX side Atlético San Luis. Villal has played with ATL UTD 2 since 2021 after emerging as a standout academy prospect with some of the greatest technical skills in the organization.
️ | #ATLUTD2 has agreed to transfer Jonantan Villal to Atlético San Luis of Liga MX.— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) December 28, 2023
We wish you nothing but the best in your future, Jonny. a 5-Stripe ❤️
Villal was a member of Atlanta United’s inaugural U-12 Academy team in 2016 and has been with the club since he was 11 years old. After signing his first professional contract with Atlanta United 2 ahead of the 2022 season, Villal has appeared in 36 matches scoring one goal and adding six assists in the USL Championship and MLS NEXT Pro. Injuries and inconsistency limited Villal’s on-field production. He played as both a wing and an attacking midfielder for the 2s and showed the kind of passing, footwork, and overall technical flair that caught the Mexican Federation’s attention. After receiving several call-ups to Mexican U-17 and U-18 National Teams, Villal will travel to Atlético San Luis where he hopes to gain more consistent playing time and make the next big leap to translate his quality on the ball into more goal production.
Good luck, Jonantan. Show them what you can do.
UPDATE : December 22nd, 11:05 AM EST
Atlanta United 2 announced an additional signing Daniel Russo, a forward from Notre Dame and the New York Red Bull Academy for the 2024 season.
Former Fighting Irish locked in— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) December 22, 2023
Welcome to the squad, Daniel Russo
The 2s listed Russo as a defender in the announcement of his signing so it is likely that he will become the third Notre Dame forward to be converted into a fullback while playing for Atlanta United 2. This experiment seems to have worked out well for Jon Gallagher and Aidan McFadden who both became full MLS professionals thanks to his positional switch. In his four college seasons, Russo scored 14 goals and added 11 assists while starting 46 of the 75 matches in which he played. He, along with Matthew Edwards and Javier Armas, will bring a wealth of experience and talent to what looks like one of the most competitive groups of players assembled for a 2s roster since 2021.
Just two days removed from the MLS SuperDraft, Atlanta United 2 announced the signings of Goalkeeper John Berner and midfielders Noble Okello and Jacob Williams as free agents for the 2024 MLS NEXT Pro season.
Before these signings, the Atlanta United 2 was looking thin. With Nic Firmino, Adyn Torres and Luke Brennan set for promotion to the first team this winter and the rumored departure of Jonatan Villal to Atlético de San Luis, the trio of Alan Carleton, Karim Tmimi, and Mathias Gallardo was all that was left of the 2023 roster.
While the 2024 SuperDraft pick Javier Armas is likely to join the club in preseason camp next month and Jayden Hibbert has expressed his interest in joining the team as soon as possible, we are still unsure whether Hibbert and 3rd-Round pick Casper Mols will be part of 2024’s team.
To add stability and veteran leadership to what will likely be a very young group of academy players and 2s prospects, Atlanta United 2 signed John Berner, 32, from Huntsville City FC where he served as a player and assistant coach in 2023. The St Louis native and former 2014 Colorado Rapids SuperDraft pick made eight starts last season and finished with 28 total saves. Berner is under contract through the 2024 MLSNP season. He has extensive experience in the USL Championship playing for the Charlotte Independence, Memphis 901 FC, and Phoenix Rising.
Noble Okello, 23, is a former Canadian international midfielder from the Toronto FC academy. He first appeared professionally for TCF II in 2017 and earned a Homegrown Player contract in 2019 to debut at the COVID-season MLS is Back Tournament. He last played for the New England Revolution II where he scored a goal in 12 appearances. One of the most noticeable things about Okello is his incredible size for a midfielder, standing at 6-foot 5 inches. He would immediately become the tallest player at any level at the club.
Jacob Williams, 24, is a former standout player for Navy where he earned 2021 Patriot League Player of the Year honors and was named to the First Team All-Patriot League in three of his four seasons. Last season, Williams started 15 of his 24 matches for Charlotte FC’s MLS NEXT PRO affiliate Crown Legacy FC scoring three goals and adding two assists. Two of his goals came in a brace against TFC II in the season finale. Williams is under contract through the 2024 MLSNP season with a club option for 2025.
Atlanta United 2 Roster (as of Dec. 21, 2023)
Goalkeeper (1): John Berner
Midfielders (8): Luke Brennan, Alan Carleton, Matías Gallardo, Nick Firmino*, Noble Okello, Adyn Torres*, Jonantan Villal, Jacob Williams
Forwards (1): Karim Tmimi
* — Set to be promoted to Atlanta United's first team on January 1, 2024.