Stephen Glass has an interesting challenge as manager of Atlanta United 2.
He trying to help develop players to one day be considered by Atlanta United. He is also trying to help those on the first team who need playing minutes to stay sharp when they drop down for games, training or loans with the USL affiliate.
While the task is complex, Glass feels he is up for the job because, as a former professional player, he’s been in each player’s situation.
“I’ve been the young player,” he said. “I’ve been the injured player. I’ve been the first team player that is out of favor. I’ve been the first team player that needs extra minutes or getting back to fitness. I think there’s an understanding of what these guys are and what they want.”
Glass was named Atlanta United 2 manager on Jan. 30 after spending the previous six months as the head coach for the Academy’s U-17 team. He came to Atlanta from North Carolina, where he was director of the Carolina Rapids, a youth club affiliated with Colorado.
That experience is part of why he feels he can relate to whichever players he will work with daily and weekly.
His experience as a player is also important. A native of Aberdeen, Scotland, Glass played professionally for Newcastle in the Premier League, Watford in the Championship and Hibernian in Scotland’s Premier League, among others.
Though influenced by each of his manager, Glass said his biggest influence was Tony Mowbray, who was his manager at Hibernian.
From Mowbray, Glass said he learned that there are two things that he must see every day from every player: desire and intensity. If they work in training, Glass said there’s no guarantee of a chance with the first team, but there may be an increased chance of an opportunity. But if they don’t work, there is a guarantee that opportunity won’t come.
“I’m not going to tolerate people not working,” he said. “I’m not going to tolerate people not being the best they can. They’ve got a great opportunity at a great club to be a professional footballer. If it doesn’t happen here, make it happen somewhere else. Show us that we were wrong to not put you in the team.”
It’s true of those players who have MLS contracts who are with Atlanta United 2, as well as those who are trying to earn that first contract.
“He demands you bring a level of respect to the team and the right attitude,” said Jon Gallagher, an Atlanta United player who will likely play mostly for Atlanta United 2 this season.
Glass describes himself as well-rounded. He will sometimes yell. Sometimes he will hug. The players seem to appreciate his personalized approach as well as his desire to just let them play, as long as they are doing what they’ve been taught and what is expected. The team (1-0-1) will play at Charlotte on Saturday.
Gallagher, for example, was a striker at Notre Dame. He started as a striker last year for Atlanta United 2, but was moved to wingback in the season. It’s a position that he is still learning so he needs feedback.
“He’s very approachable, which is a key thing for a guy in his position,” Gallagher said. “I asked him if there’s anything I can improve. He said if he hadn’t known he’d thought I was playing there for a while. That was nice. That was a nice confidence boost.”
It’s all part of Glass’ mission to develop each of the players to perform as well as they can for Atlanta United 2 and Atlanta United.
“I think I have the skill set to help them get what they want if they work hard,” he said. “Obviously, you can’t put everyone back to the first team, but you can help them along the way and make them as good as they can be. Then it’s a decision for the people above me: do they play, do they not play.
“I trust them to do as best as they can. Hopefully it shows on the team you use on a Friday or Saturday night.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.