Atlanta United’s USL affiliate has a home and a name –– but what will the competition be like for ATL UTD 2 in 2018? From the most lethal finishers to the brick walls in between the sticks, here’s how the USL stands heading into next year:
If ATL UTD 2 wants to be the best in USL, they’ll have to beat their Southern neighbors just two states away. Louisville City FC are the reigning USL champions after beating out Sporting Kansas City affiliate Swope Park Rangers in last year’s USL Cup. The Eastern Conference champs lifted the cup thanks to an 89th minute winner from Cameron Lancaster.
The top scorer for the league’s most prolific attack last year, Reno 1868’s Dane Kelly, earned last year’s Golden Boot. With 18 goals and 4 assists in 28 appearances last year, the Jamaican was voted the Most Valuable Player for USL in 2017. A strong center forward with a powerful right foot, he’s a classic #9, with 16 of his goals coming from inside the box. Not too far behind though was Atlanta United’s Romario Williams, who finished just three goals behind for the Charleston Battery last year.
There is plenty of quality for fans to catch in USL, but this goal stood above the rest. Swope Park Rangers’ Nansel Selbol’s curling effort was voted by the fans as the best goal of the 2017 season.
While Atlanta United’s newly-acquired goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt led the USL in saves last year for FC Cincinnati, it was Tomas Gomez from the Rochester Rhinos who took home the 2017 Golden Glove award as the league’s best goalkeeper. The 24-year-old’s 0.73 goals conceded per game average was the best in the league, and his 71% save percentage isn’t too shabby either.
Keep an eye on Reno 1868, who took the league by storm in their expansion season. Not only did they have the MVP and top scorer Dane Kelly in their lineup, they also had the rookie of the year. Former University of New Mexico standout Chris Wehan was named the 2017 USL Rookie of the Year after tying the USL single season record for assists with 12. While Wehan was moved on to the club’s MLS partner San Jose over the offseason, this potent offense isn’t going anywhere.
The best of the best in USL this year were honored with a spot on the USL All-League teams. Reno 1868, Real Monarchs and San Antonio FC were all represented by two players each, with 2017 Atlanta United USL affiliate the Charleston Battery boasting a member of the back line, Forrest Lasso.
2018 is a new chapter for Atlanta United as they join a fast-growing league on the rise. If they want to find success in USL, this is the competition they’ll have to beat out. And to show our excitement, here's the best celebrations from USL this year. Bring on the new year!