Soccer Down Here
Atlanta in Guadalajara: Who to Watch
While you and I still sit in the up and down winter of Georgia (or wherever you are – hope you are warm!) Atlanta United have retreated to Mexico for preseason preparations. Last week we discussed names you should watch for Atlanta United in their matchup with the Georgia Revolution. Thankfully the roster is deep enough for us to do that again! So let’s see who we might need to keep an eye on against Celeya FC and hopefully this time we do not trigger any grand transfers with an article. Aiden McFadden
McFadden came to Atlanta through the proven pathway of ‘drafted by Atlanta United from Notre Dame and asked to produce with Atlanta United 2.’ It worked for Jon Gallagher and here we are again. The main difference being that Gallagher went full Omar Infante and played every position under the sun while McFadden has quickly settled into the attacking right back role. He drives forward quickly while still possessing the pace to get back and defend when called upon. McFadden also is hilariously good in the air. He might be the best aerial player in the organization right now. McFadden has seen a lot of opportunity in preseason with Brooks Lennon and Ronald Hernadnez both in and out of their national team camps. I cannot say for sure how much time McFadden sees Sunday afternoon but if he is in the game you will recognize him as the right-sided player bombing forward and winning headers at what appears to the mortal eye as an unsustainable clip. Machop Chol Chol is a weird one to predict as he is just coming back from his national team call-up with South Sudan and joins a crowded roster in Mexico. Chol signed as a homegrown player last year after a career at Wake Forest and is one of the most physically unique players you will see. He’s tall and lanky with measurements that you would expect to see on a basketball court, but he possesses technical skill and speed that can be very tricky to defend against. Chol appeared for the first team a handful of times in 2021 but never appeared to get any traction. He also spent some time with Atlanta United 2 but did not make the impact that he was hoping for. The talent is there and 2022 will be a big year for him to show that he is ready for a bigger share of the minutes in a competitive roster. Daniel Bloyou Bloyou was another third round pick for the Five Stripes that is more likely fighting for a roster spot with Atlanta United 2 alongside fellow third round pick Tola Showunmi. A former Philadelphia Union product, Bloyou spent time at Penn State before being drafted and has spent a lot of his time with Atlanta playing on the right side so far in preseason. If you want to pinpoint his coming out party for some, it was the game in Athens against the Georgia Revolution where he scored a goal and looked solid in limited action. As we discussed with Showunmi, it is an uphill battle for late draft picks to make a roster in MLS and I would not be surprised to see him get a shot with the second team to get him the minutes at professional speed and see how he develops. Bloyou certainly fits under the category of ‘watch not only because he’s fun but so you can smugly tell people you were aware of him if/when he’s playing in the organization somewhere.’ Noah Cobb I make this recommendation without knowing if Cobb is even with the team in Mexico, but pay attention to him anyway because he is demanding it when on the field. Cobb is a 16 year-old defender who might be a good bet if you are looking for the next young homegrown player. I say that with the caveat that he is so young that there is no rush to sign him right now. Just because a teenager is showing promise does not mean they need to sign a homegrown deal tomorrow or they will be lost. Cobb has shown great positioning and maturity in the flow of games when put on the field against adults and watching him paired up with veteran players in the backline has been fun to watch. If – and this appears to be the flow of things in the last few years – Atlanta is going to turn into a center back factory, Cobb is a good bet down the road. Bryce Washington Sure, why not. Let us continue our discussion on center backs coming out of the academy. Washington fits more of the freak athlete persona and has the unique feather in his cap as one of the players who played in the club’s first public academy games back in the dark ages of 2016. Washington cut his teeth in the Big10 before signing a homegrown deal with Atlanta last year around and spending his time with Atlanta United 2. Washington spent a lot of time playing as a center back and as a right back. If you are looking for the spiritual successor to the Anton Walkes role – not to Walkes himself as comparisons like this are unfair – it might be Washington. He is still working on the offensive side of the game when playing on the right side, as we saw against the Georgia Storm a few weeks ago, but the second team will be a good place for him to gain the confidence to bomb down the right side. It is hard to predict where we might see him in Mexico if he plays but I would wager that it would be in the right back role.