With the Five Stripes generally sticking with a 4-2-3-1 shape, Wiley’s had less license to bomb forward than in past situations where a three-man defense gave him a more end-to-end tasking as a wingback, particularly in light of his right-sided counterpart Brooks Lennon’s eagerness to join the attack. That’s prompted him to focus on subtler details of his craft that might be less thrilling in the short term, but useful for his long-range prospects.

“I think I’ve improved on the defending part,” he said. “This year I’ve played more of a defensive position, so I think that’s something I’ve improved on, with the 1v1 duels. Continuing on the attacking side, [I have to be] cleaner in my crosses. With this position now, I’m not having as many opportunities as maybe last year playing that left wingback role, so this year I’ve got to make sure when I do cross, I’ve got to connect it.

“Now I’m a bit deeper, part of the back line. But I still get the freedom to get upfield and make overlaps, be a part of the attacking third, be creative up there. I’ve just got to pick and choose my times to go.”

This all meshes with the priorities Pineda has identified, which he presents to Wiley as valuable for both his individual ambitions and the benefit of the collective.

“He needs to be better defensively, picking and choosing better the timings to go forward and making sure those count,” said Pineda. “As a fullback, especially if you want to be in the national team, you have to be first a good defender, most of all. Because most of the moments in international duties are transitional – it’s a lot of open games, right? And you face sometimes the best wingers in the world, and you need to be up to that task defensively: being good in your aerial duels, you’re defending the crosses on the far post, defending 1v1 situations, blocking crosses, blocking shots.

“So we need to demand that from our fullbacks, especially Caleb, if he wants to succeed on the national team or even Europe at some point. So that’s our goal. And then I think offensively, he has a special gift. I think he sees gaps very often, good quality in the final third, good speed. So it’s just about timing.”

Clever timing will also be pivotal for Wiley’s next career move. If he can find a strong run of form at club level and seize the opportunity of the Olympics, he’ll have ample options for making the leap abroad, be it during the summer window or next winter. The latter might be his personal preference, going by his desire to give his city another taste of glory before he leaves.

“I always just try to leave that to the side and when it comes the time, then I’ll really look at what options I have. But I try to just focus on where I am right now, which is Atlanta,” Wiley said. “I want to win a trophy here.

“I love Atlanta so much,” he added. “They deserve another trophy and so that’s my goal, that’s what I want.”


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