Atlanta United added four players to its squad during the 2017 MLS SuperDraft:
- Miles Robinson, center back, Syracuse
- Julian Gressel, midfielder/forward, Providence
- Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, midfielder, Harvard
- Alex Kapp, goalkeeper, Creighton
What can you expect from this draft class on the field in 2017? Let’s look at them one-by-one:
The Generation adidas signing was the best pick for Atlanta at the #2 spot. Is it realistic to expect him to start on Opening Day? No. Beyond it being a big jump for a 19-year-old player with two years of college experience, Robinson will potentially have other responsibilities to keep in mind in 2017.
He was recently called into the U.S. U20 National Team for a training camp through January 23. If all goes well, Robinson could be brought back for the CONCACAF U20 Championship. Training camp for that tournament will open on January 31 and the opening game of the tournament is on February 18. The tournament concludes on March 5, the date of Atlanta United’s MLS opener against the New York Red Bulls.
The top four teams at the CONCACAF tournament will qualify for the FIFA U20 World Cup in South Korea. With the U.S. likely to qualify, Robinson could again be away ahead of the kickoff of tournament on May 20. The final is on June 11.
All of these youth national team responsibilities, assuming Robinson continues getting called up, will make it difficult for Robinson to get into a rhythm with Atlanta United’s squad and especially the backline. If he contributes in 2017, it will likely be in the second half of the season.
Gressel is the most likely to play minutes early in Atlanta United’s season. At 23-years-old and with a great deal of experience in the German club system, Gressel is a more seasoned player who can contribute in a variety of midfield and forward roles.
He was forced into a fairly unfamiliar #9 role at Providence in 2016, but he adapted well and scored fifteen goals in his senior season. Five of those were game-winners, showing that Gressel can rise to the occasion when needed. Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra have been consistent in saying that Gressel’s versatility and maturity make them think that he will be a contributor in 2017.
Wheeler-Omiunu will be an unsigned draft pick at Atlanta United’s preseason training camp starting next week. He was a two-time All-Ivy League First Team selection. He is a midfielder who can contribute on both sides of the ball and has shown leadership as a captain for the Crimson.
He will need to show the ability to match the speed of play expected at the next level, along with picking up Tata Martino’s tactical system. With quite a few other two-way midfielders in the picture already, Wheeler-Omiunu will have to be at his best in preseason to earn a contract.
After playing three seasons at Boston College, Kapp transferred to Creighton for his final year of eligibility. In his final two seasons in college, he carried his teams deep into the NCAA Tournament. He will also be joining preseason training as an unsigned draft pick.
The potential signing of Brad Guzan has a big impact on Kapp’s long term future with the team. Teams do not typically carry four goalkeepers, and Kapp would likely be the odd man out. Three goalkeepers on the senior roster is common though. There is also the possibility of loaning one of the goalkeepers out to Charleston to continue developing there.