Atlanta United reaches outside of the border of the United States every year to find some of our best performers. However, there are plenty of great players that have been playing the sport of football in this country since they were 4 years old. One of these young men is named Conner Antley. Conner plays defensive-winger, although he can play CB, as well as a defending midfielder. A graduate of Mercer University he last year played for Tormenta F.C in Statesboro where he won Defensive Player of the Year in USL League 1, scoring six goals in 27 appearances for the Club. At 6’1 he has a frame that could only create more athletic ability, although he already has plenty of that to spare.
An Atlanta native, when I asked him if Atlanta United was a place he would like to end up in the MLS, the answer was an emphatic yes. Truthfully what is most impressive about Antley is his attitude and his belief about the game and competition in general. I will be the first to admit that when it comes to recruiting for soccer I probably am not the foremost expert. I do however have a ton of experience in scouting athletes, as well as the way an athlete’s mind works. What are the things that drive them? What makes them tick? How do I get the best out of this young man, and more importantly is he going to bring his teammates up to a level they would not work at if he were not present on the pitch?
I have been around some of the greatest leaders and athletes in both pro and college. Being around players like Mohammad Massaquoi taught me that there is so much more to being a teammate than your athletic ability. The true goal is to make the most cohesive unit possible. Someone who by their attitude or performance puts everyone else on notice. Knowshon Moreno was probably one of the best I have ever seen at that ability. It could be freezing at 4:15 AM yet "Know" was there making it a more enjoyable experience. Even though it sucked, it sucked a whole lot less because I had my boys with me. Knowshon also never stayed down for more than a half-second after hitting the turf. Popping up in front of the defenders to let them know, "This is coming at you all game." I also knew that if something went down there was no question in my mind they had my back, and they knew the same would come from me. If a punch gets thrown, we are all in this together. The same way that we are together for those 4 quarters. That is one of the most important questions I think about when talking to any athlete. Is this guy out for himself? Or is he here to bring everyone else onto a different level and largely contribute to the team?
I can easily say having had a two-hour conversation with the 24-year-old native of the same city The Five Stripes take the field in, yes. Not only does he have the physical attributes to be able to make an impact in the MLS, but he also brings a swag and attitude that you have to possess. If you don’t you will be eaten alive by the players that suspect any weakness, and that includes the guys on your team. Quite honestly it’s the same attitude I was taught to have growing up, and that I saw in some of the best athletes in the US. The quote I am used to hearing most is: “It does not matter what I have to do, how many bones I have to break, or how tired I get, I am going to absolutely embarrass the guys who are in front of me, and not only that I am going to let him know it all game long.”
Conner would also be a good fit for the FDB system; he understands the intricacies of the style of football that FDB plays. He is excellent at holding the ball, which most people might think is easy, but it can be one of the most difficult things to do in Football. I also believe he could make a great partner next to Mile Robinson. Although he may not be an immediate success in the MLS, in the long term the guy would make a large impact on the team. He has had practice sessions with the 1st and 2nd team and knows the kind of level that those guys play. Although he knows he would need to stay healthy and also to learn, he has what it takes to make a starting 11 in Atlanta in the next few years.
Antley has already made the move to Indy 11 in the USL Championship. He told me that he is looking forward to the opportunity to prove himself to be the caliber player that Atlanta United would sign to play. I really can’t emphasize enough how much Connor struck me not only as a good player but also a good person and teammate. He works with kids and will bring them to Atlanta United games. Pro and college athletes doing things for fans on their own volition has always been an important thing in my mind. In most cases the teams make you do all the charity work, Conner will go do it on his own. That shows you a lot about his character.
When we have these conversations about players being homegrown not only from the U.S but especially from Atlanta it gives out excitement. There is nothing more than most Football fans would want to see than the expansion of American players, which would by nature expand our National Teams quality. For Antley, the first Cap for the United States is probably still a little ways away, but I don’t think that bothers him at all. He is willing to fight and claw for whatever position he is told to go after. This is something in sports that can be difficult to deal with. These men are your friends, they are your teammates, and a lot of players have trouble going full out simply because it’s against one of the teammates. This is something I was warned about and especially in early high school, I would let the older guys get to me, telling me to slow down and not embarrass them.
Conner will not back down from any challenge that much I can guarantee. This is one player that would be amazing to see in a 5 Stripes Jersey. With such a brilliant guy like Bocanegra heading up all the player development, I’m sure that Antley is not too far out of the sight of Atlanta United Scouts. He has all the intangibles that are extremely hard to find. He has great confidence and is sure about himself, which is never a bad thing. He is respectful and understands professionalism. His attitude and belief in himself combined with the motor he has almost always come together in a winning combination. I will be keeping a close eye on him with his USL team this season and watching his progression. Having known so many great leaders and athletes in my life, there is simply a list of attributes that you naturally keep in mind to grow from it, and also to help your team. Conner Antley has grasped many of those attributes at the age of 24. It seems that he will soon be ready to have his shot at The Show.
Check out his introduction highlight for Indy 11.