Atlanta United has a game under its belt in 2018. Feels good, doesn’t it? Well now that the first one is out of the way, let us look at the next one and see what we might expect or look for in the first game of the Carolina Challenge Cup this weekend.

 

  • How much do we see of the homegrowns?
    • Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin got time in the Nashville game. Carleton looked up and down while Chris Goslin looked like the bad guy at the end of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen who took too much of the Mr. Hyde potion (this means he was insane for a short amount of time.) The question is not whether the kids get to see the field, but what team they see the field with. Without a crystal ball to tell me who wrong I am, I would assume we will see them get minutes with both the second team and possibly some time with the starters. If the latter happens I hope we see the stars align and they see minutes against one of the MLS sides when their starters are on the pitch as well. There is still a fair amount of grown for both of these players to go through, but big performances in Charleston will surely make the calls for their promotion to the first team louder than ever.
180123 atlutd preseason day2 143 What to watch for: Carolina Challenge Cup

Romario Williams in preseason training (Photo Courtesy of Atlanta United)

  • Who gets ahead in the back-up striker battle. 
    • Rose picture or no rose picture, no one is unseating Josef Martinez as the man up top for Atlanta Untied. The question of who backs him up started in Nashville with both Brandon Vazquez and Romario Williams finishing in front of the net. With the move of Patrick Okonkwo to Charleston (more on that later) one of these strikers is probably making 18s left and right as another attacking option while the other will probably see a ton of minutes in Gwinnett. Where things stand right is anyone’s guess and both players can make strong cases to be on the senior squad. Perhaps we will see one pull ahead.
  • Can the bounce-back candidates bounce back?
    • We detailed some guys who could use bounce-back performances after the Nashville match and they will get three games to do that. Now they will not all see the field for 90 minutes but the opportunities will be there for guys like Gressel and Chris McCann. The thing is, these two players, in particular, may be impacted by the other things we are watching out for. Goslin continuing to play well in big situations could put pressure on McCann’s spot in the future and should Brandon Vazquez win a spot with the 18 week-in and week-out we already know he can be a weapon out wide as well as up top, which could eat into Gressel’s minutes.

 

  • What does Miles Robinson have to show?
    • Robinson was a popular candidate for ‘3 down’ last week that was not mentioned. The second overall pick from 2017 entered the league with expectations and we did not see much of him during his rookie season. When he did see the field, the results were underwhelming. That trend continued in Nashville where he got too far up the field on Nashville’s goal and was unable to recover. This will be a big year for Robinson as he will get the opportunity to log minutes in Gwinnett and prove he can be the successor to Michael Parkhurst down the road. The physical skills are absolutely there and perhaps all he needs is minutes, and a stable showing in Charleston would probably do a lot to ease people’s minds.

 

  • How much Villalba do we see? Other players held out?
    • Tito missed Nashville after making a trip back to Atlanta for an abductor muscle injury. While it sounds like he will be OK in the long run, he might be best suited to rest in Charleston so as not to create any setbacks in his recovery. Beyond Villalba, fans will surely be excited to see Franco Escobar after he missed Nashville. If he sits as well, Sal Zizzo could get another runout or two. No matter who plays, hopefully the games take place on a field that isn’t something out of a Francis Marion story.

 

  • Will we see Patrick Okonkwo or Gordon Wild?
    • Both players are on loan with Charleston, with Okonkwo picking up two goals in their friendly with College of Charleston. Both are talented players who will get a chance to fight for minutes on a Battery squad that has a very different look from the team that lit the USL on fire for parts of 2017. Wouldn’t it be something else for a Five Stripes/Battery matchup where at least three homegrowns are on the field but not all on the same team? It could happen.
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