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The Communicator: Derrick Williams Is Making Atlanta Home

by Madison Crews

We only ever talk about the backline whenever a team loses or gives up a goal. While many Atlanta United fans focus more on the attack, many don’t know much about the player who keeps the back line in shape. 

Derrick Williams was born in Hamburg, Germany, and has played in some major clubs in the world of soccer. During his youth career, he played for Aston Villa and was even on the bench for a few games with the first team. 

“My experience there really shaped me into the man I am today,” said Williams. “The two coaches I had were Tony McAndrew and Kevin McDonald, and I owe a lot to them.”

His experiences with these two coaches helped prepare him for his career as a professional soccer player. Williams then moved to Bristol City for three years and then to Blackburn Rovers. 

Then on March 4th, 2021, he came to the United States where he was signed by the LA Galaxy. The LA Galaxy traded him on November 10th, 2022 to D.C United. 

Derrick Williams became a Five Stripe when he was selected by Atlanta in the MLS Re-Entry draft. He has only been with the team for a few months, but he is already a key factor in Gonzalo Pineda’s back four, starting all five matches of the regular season. Williams is a very vocal player and is always communicating with his teammates on the field. 

“It's how you speak to people. In the last couple of years, I have really worked on that,” said Williams ahead of the Chicago match on Friday. “Before I used to just shout at people, and it wasn’t positive. Sometimes you shout at someone and they react negatively. They put their head down and they go into their shell. Then it's a lose, lose battle for everyone.”

This intrigued me. I wanted to know more about how he has grown as he has moved forward with his career, and I had the chance to ask him after the 3-0 victory last night. Williams told me that he realized he needed to make this switch when he got traded from the LA Galaxy. 

“That offseason I really just had to look inside and ask myself questions of why that happened because I didn't think I was playing too poorly, but I think I could have handled relationships with people a lot better,” said Williams. “I think that was definitely a big moment and a learning curve for me. Since then I think I have been doing a lot better.” 

Due to Stian Gregersen being injured, this brings up Noah Cobb. Williams and Cobb played a lot together in this back line during preseason, and Cobb says that this communication they have is what helped them last night during the match. 

“He has really helped me,” Cobb said after the match. “He has really been on me in the training sessions about communication and being aggressive at the right times. I think the level of accountability that he holds me to is really good.”

“I like playing with him. He is a young guy, but he is learning quickly,” said Williams when asked about his communication with Cobb during the match. “I’m happy we got the clean sheet for him as well just to give him a bit of confidence to realize that he is good enough for this league.” 

Atlanta United won 3-0 against the Chicago Fire yesterday. The Five Stripes earned the clean sheet, which is huge for the team's ambitions in 2024. 

“The coaches said to have our own goals and write down our goals, which is good. One of them for me was to try and concede less than 40 goals,” said Williams. “I looked at last season and I think if you concede less than 40 you are pretty much in the top four of your conference. That’s definitely a big goal for us.”

One thing is for sure, we have only seen the beginning of what is to come for Derrick Williams as he makes Atlanta home. 

(Photos: Sofia Cupertino)

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