ATL UTD midfielder Laurence Wyke spent a year with ATL UTD 2 before being called up. Wyke knows what it means to bide his time and work on his game. He had the same task when he first came to college in America to Division-III Trinity University. After playing in Texas for a year and a half, Wyke was ready for a new challenge and transferred to Division-I Furman University.
“My first year at Furman I got conference player of the year, Academic All-American. I went into my senior year unsure whether I was going to play professionally still,” Wyke reminisced. “The first year went well at Furman. We went to the NCAA second round. We actually beat [ATL UTD 2 forward] Phillip Goodrum’s team, UNC-Wilmington.”
That transition prepared Wyke for his jump from the USL to the MLS earlier this year. During his time with ATL UTD 2, Wyke looked up to and learned from some of his counterparts on ATL UTD. Former Atlanta Captain Michael Parkhurst even met Wyke for coffee the day before his first home start against FC Cincinnati in March, encouraging him and helping him relax before the game.
“Michael Parkhurst was a great source of knowledge, the captain for the first team. He and I got along really well. He always used to help me because I used to have loads of questions as a first year pro,” Wyke continued. “He always speaks to me and is willing to help me when I need it. Jeff Larentowicz is another character. He and I joke around a lot, he’s a very funny guy. I always have a laugh with Jeff. He always helps me out, and Brad is great too. Them three the most; there’s a lot of banter flying around.”
As Wyke continues to find his stride with the team, learning from his teammates and a familiar face on the pitch. Wyke learned from Interim Head Coach Stephen Glass and Interim Assistant Coach Henry Apaloo while playing for ATL UTD 2 and now he’s excited to show them how he’s grown.
“Getting the chance to work closely with Stephen Glass and Henry Apaloo again has been fantastic for me. They already know me as a player and how to get the best out of me,” Wyke explained. “They had such a big impact in my personal development on and off the field in my first year. I’m excited to work hard and learn from them this year too.”
Off the pitch, Wyke has learned how to handle his new role by seeking advice from his mentors and his coaches. On the pitch, he has grown by watching his new teammates. When he first played with the 5-Stripes, he noticed right away how much faster the game is and how imperative it is to stay focused.
“If you make a mistake in the MLS, they’re going to definitely punish you with some of the fantastic players in the league,” Wyke observed. “The players are quick and shifty. If you make a mistake or get beat or something happens, you can bet that they’ll punish you for it. The speed of play is higher, the intensity is higher. The games are crazy because of the energy.”
Wyke had a little extra help getting focused during his MLS debut. Mesmerized by the 60,000+ fans in attendance at Nissan Stadium against Nashville SC, one of his teammates gave him quite the pep talk as he came off the bench in the season opener.
“I remember just seeing tons of people and Brad comes over and slaps me on the ear and that’s literally one of the only things I can remember. I remember the pain and my ear’s just ringing,” Wyke remembered with a laugh. “He clapped both hands on my face and said, ‘Do what you do, keep it simple and no silly fouls.’ Just helping me get switched on and focused. ‘We believe in you, you’ve got this.’”
Wyke has grown a lot in Atlanta and, with the help of his teammates and coaches, he is ready to prove his worth to the 5-Stripes. As the team looks ahead to the next phase of the season, Wyke is looking around at all the support the club has given him. The boy from Bolton, England is ready to earn his stripes in the MLS.