Homegrown Bryce Washington had well-planned path to Atlanta United

Atlanta United signed Bryce Washington as a Homegrown player. Washington played for the team's academy before playing in college at Rutgers and then Pitt.
Atlanta United signed Bryce Washington as a Homegrown player. Washington played for the team's academy before playing in college at Rutgers and then Pitt.

Credit: Atlanta United

Credit: Atlanta United

Bryce Washington’s path to Atlanta United was well-planned and executed in listening to him discuss on Monday how he went from the academy to signing a Homegrown contract with the team last week.

First, the academy, then college and earning a degree (it would be political science and economics), and then becoming a professional player.

“Plan was always to keep elevating, and keep improving my game,” he said.

A result of the plan is that Washington described himself as being similar to teammate Miles Robinson. He is tall (6 feet, 3 inches), he is fast, he is a good one-on-one defender, can play in a back three or four, and is comfortable as the right or left centerback in a back four. Both have become much better passers and one of Washington’s former coaches predicts that he will continue to improve in that area.

Sounds familiar.

“I play simple,” he said. “Do my job. I get it to players whose job it is to create. I try to organize my team. I’m a pretty vocal leader. I read the game well defensively. I’ll put my body on the line.”

Washington, 22, hopes to start earning minutes with Atlanta United 2, which will play host to Sporting Kansas City 2 on Wednesday. If he gets called up to the first team, he said that would be great but seems more focused on what he can do in the USL and then preparing for next year’s training camp with the first team.

He started training with 2s last Wednesday. He said he describes his fitness level at about 85 percent.

Washington’s path to the club started with Atlanta United’s first U18 team in 2016-17. Success was a given with that team. That U18 team won a Southeast Division title and No. 1 national seed. More than 30 goals scored. Few conceded. Washington rattles off the stats with ease, something he did throughout Monday’s interview, whether it was wins-losses or tackle percentages, which may be the economist part of his personality.

College was the next step.

Because his goal was to always play for Atlanta United after college, the club retained his Homegrown rights after he enrolled. Washington would frequently come and work out with the team during the summer.

“They’ve always been very loyal to me,” he said. “My mind was set on that.”

Washington signed with Rutgers, going from Atlanta United’s team to beat to an a underdog program in the Big Ten.

Rutgers won four games in Washington’s first year and conceded 45 goals in 18 games. Washington appeared in 14 games. His appearances increased to 18 games with seven wins and just 24 goals conceded his sophomore season.

Wanting to challenge himself against the best, Washington transferred to Pitt for his junior and senior seasons.

Like Rutgers, Pitt was an after-thought in college soccer at the time.

“Both situations, I had to work harder than I ever had to,” he said. “It pushed me as a player, pushed me as a teammate, pushed me as a person.”

Washington appeared in 19 games as a junior and helped the team reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1965. He appeared in 20 games as a senior and helped the Panthers achieve a No. 1 ranking in college soccer. Pitt often played in a back three with Washington as the center of the trio. Because of his one-on-one defending ability —he said his tackle percentage rate was 85 percent in college — and speed, the Panthers could often play a very high line.

Washington also became a goal-scorer, a rarity for a centerback. He totaled eight in four years in college, most of them from set-pieces.

“Bryce continually developed over the two years he was here from a technical, technical standpoint to a maturity standpoint,” Pitt assistant coach Michael Behonick said. “He really came into his own, this year in particular. As he continued to learn and grow and embrace all the information he was given.”

Behonick said that Washington’s partnership with Arturo Ordonez was “massive” in allowing Pitt play so aggressively on offense.

Unprompted, Behonick said that Washington’s development in college reminds him of Robinson when he was at Syracuse and with Atlanta United.

“Hopefully, Bryce can have the same trajectory that Miles has had,” he said.