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Why Conner Antley’s path to D.C. United should inspire every young soccer player

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 02/14/24, 3:09PM EST


From League Two beginnings to a transfer to D.C. United, the experienced defender has proven an unearthed gem

Conner Antley made 98 appearances across three seasons for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, helping the side win the 2021 Championship Players' Shield and Eastern Conference title. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

Six years ago, Conner Antley was likely on few people’s radars in America’s professional soccer ranks.

On Wednesday, he became the newest member of historic Major League Soccer club D.C. United, culminating a journey that has seen the 28-year-old make almost 150 appearances between the USL Championship and USL League One, claim silverware as one of the consistent presences in the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ back line, and earn every opportunity that’s come his way.

Competing collegiately at Mercer College in his native Georgia, Antley concluded his career in 2017 without a professional offer to continue his career. The following summer, however, his path began with South Georgia Tormenta FC, then in USL League Two. Part of the club’s division-title winning squad that also included All-Southern Conference selections Marco Micaletto and Pablo Jara, Antley impressed Tormenta’s leadership and remained with the club as it moved into the professional ranks in USL League One’s inaugural season.

From there, Antley became a revelation. Playing as a right-sided wingback in South Georgia’s system, he recorded six goals and six assists in the attacking third while also posting 40 tackles at a 76.9 percent success rate and more than 200 recoveries. Antley was voted League One’s Defender of the Year and became the first player in league history to be transferred to a higher level as Indy Eleven came calling prior to the 2020 USL Championship season.

Conner Antley earned USL League One Defender of the Year honors in his first professional season with South Georgia Tormenta FC in 2019. | Photo courtesy South Georgia Tormenta FC

Antley was solid for Indy during the abbreviated season but came into his own after an offseason move to Tampa Bay before the 2021 season. In 98 appearances across the regular season and playoffs, he recorded 14 assists and 78 chances created while showing his versatility as a wingback or on the right side of then-Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins’ three-man defensive line. In his first season in Tampa Bay, the side won the Players’ Shield and the Eastern Conference title with Antley as one of the club’s mainstays.

Now he’ll get his first chance at top-flight soccer with D.C. and new Head Coach Troy Lesesne. For the Rowdies, there are replacements waiting in the wings, including the recently signed Nick Moon. At the same time, it’s a farewell to a player who has meant much to the club and its fans.

Over three seasons with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Conner Antley has become one of the best-loved players in the squad as well as a reliable performer on the field. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

“We are disappointed to lose a player who has done so well in his time with the club, but it is nice to see Conner earn this chance with D.C. United,” said Rowdies Head Coach Robbie Neilson. “As a club, we’re happy for Conner and proud to show that the Rowdies provide a good environment for players to come and progress their careers and grow as individuals. I’m sure our supporters are grateful for Conner’s contributions to the Rowdies over the years and join us in wishing him well in D.C.”

In an offseason that has seen six players make the move via transfer from USL Championship clubs to those in Major League Soccer, however, none may have as unique a success story as Antley.

“The Rowdies have meant everything to me for the past three seasons,” said Antley. “They have been more than just a great club for me and my family, but truly a place we were blessed enough to call home. I want to thank all my teammates and coaches I’ve had in my time with the Rowdies. You are all the reason I have been given this opportunity to take the next step in my career. I wouldn’t trade these last three years in Green & Gold for anything. The Rowdies will always feel like family to me.”

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