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Q&A: Carlos Bocanegra on what Brooks Lennon brings to Atlanta United

Atlanta United has made its first move of the offseason, bringing in midfielder/fullback Brooks Lennon from Real Salt Lake. Lennon played in the Liverpool Academy and already has more than 60 professional appearances in MLS at just 22 years old. ATLUTD.com sat down with Atlanta United Vice President & Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra about what the versatile young player brings to the club:

What did you see in Brooks Lennon and how does he fit into the team?

We’d seen Brooks in the U-20 World Cup, we’d seen him playing for Real Salt Lake. We tried to get him last year, and we were able to finally come to an agreement. He’s tenacious. He’s aggressive. He runs hard. He can beat a guy 1v1 and deliver a cross. He didn’t grow up as a defender, but he has the instincts to defend 1v1. When he senses danger, his alarm bells go off and he chases back to get in the right spot defensively. He seems to have a really good soccer IQ, and we like his versatility playing anywhere up and down the right hand side, and anywhere up the left hand side as well.

Brooks has an interesting background. He grew up in Arizona, then moved to England in the Liverpool Academy, then back to MLS and of course experience internationally as well. How does that prepare him for success moving forward?

I think it helps. He’s well-rounded, he can get goals, give assists and beat players 1v1. He’s played in foreign countries, he’s played in international championships, he’s played over 60 professional games in MLS –– that’s a lot of experience for someone who’s still just 22 years old. So he has a lot of different experiences which make him well-rounded as a player. I also like that he has an incredible engine that can get up and down the line all game long. So whether he's a right back, a right wingback or a winger running onto the play, he has that capacity to get up and down the field and be a two-way player. But he also has the quality to deliver a final ball, which you can immediately see when you watch him play. He delivers a good ball and can give a great assist. He can play higher up the field in a 4-4-2, in a 3-5-2 –– however we want to deploy the team that’s someone that’s very useful.

One of the biggest questions about Brooks in his young career is: is he a winger or a fullback? How do you see him fitting in the team?

I think he can play both. I like him running onto the ball into space because of his engine. But we bring players in to compete and play where they’re needed. On the field he’s a competitor, he fights for everything offensively and defensively. I expect him to come in and be competitive from day one, and that’s what we’re trying to do in building a championship team.

The personality in the locker room has always been an important part of Atlanta United’s recruitment process. What do you know about him as a person more than as a player?

Just from speaking to people about him as a player, we know he’s a hard worker. He’s a professional that takes his game really seriously. I think that’s something that stood out about him. We want to bring a guy in who’s willing to learn, who’s willing to fight for his spot, who’s willing to play in different formations or positions or whatever’s required of him at the best of his ability. And I want to be sure not to sell him short; we think he has a lot of quality. That’s why we went after him as one of our top targets in the offseason.

Stay tuned to ATLUTD.com all offseason long for all the latest on roster changes leading up to the start of the 2020 season.

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