But manager Scott Donnelly said the goal of developing players for the “big team,” and implementing its same swashbuckling style, haven’t changed when Atlanta United 2 faces New York Red Bulls II.
“It’s the same as it’s been,” he said. “The job is to compete well. The job is to give these guys experience in game minutes, see how they react and if they execute, not just in training but in a game setting.
“The job is to push the guys to perform. A byproduct is being competitive. Obviously, we’d love to win. As always, we keep it in balance with our largest objectives.”
Atlanta United 2 has a roster of 14 players after announcing the signings of midfielder Jose Carranza and forward Devon Sandoval on Thursday. The group will be supplemented on Saturday by several Atlanta United players: goalkeeper Alec Kann, defenders Miles Robinson and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, midfielder Oliver Shannon and forwards Lagos Kunga and Jon Gallagher, the first pick in this year’s draft.
Donnelly said the expectations for the Atlanta United players are high.
“It’s not only to be a part of the team and lead some of he even younger guys but it’s also to execute, to play well, to help us play the right style, our style to play aggressive, attacking soccer, as the club does,” he said. “Our expectations are high on those guys as first-team players coming across.”
None of the first-team players have competed for Atlanta United in its first three games. Other than Kann, none have ever played in a league game for Atlanta United.
“Just excited to play in a competitive game really,” said Shannon, who was selected in the second round of this year’s draft after a standout career at Clemson. “I know it’s a big moment for Atlanta United 2. All the guys have been working hard. It’s a cherry on the cake on a long preseason to play in a competitive game.”
Robinson, the team’s first pick in its inaugural draft last year, said has dealt with the lack of playing time by trying to sharp mentally for every day. With a year of experience in Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino’s system, Robinson may be the best to keep back line and midfield organized. He said he isn’t approaching Saturday as if he’s the Michael Parkhurst of the defense.
It will be interesting to see if Robinson lines up in the 4-3-3 formation for Atlanta United 2 that Atlanta United used most of last season, or the 3-5-2 it has used in its two wins this season.
Donnelly wasn’t giving away any info.
“The good thing about having a true playing philosophy is you have principles of how you play that aren’t always tied to the formation you line up in,” he said.
Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said when the USL team was launched that its a fundamental link to connect the academy to the first team because it gives those players a chance to compete at a higher level.
Most of the remaining Atlanta United 2’s roster includes players with experience in USL and NASL, such as defenders AJ Cochran and Shawn Nicklaw, and midfielder Jack Metcalf as well as a few from Argentina, such as Brian Gambarte and Gaston Cardozo.
“Excited to get out in front of the fans and kick off our inaugural season,” Donnelly said. “It’s going to be really exciting on Saturday, no question.”