Whether it’s for the Atlanta United Academy or Penn State University, Liam Butts has shown that he can be a star with limitless potential. Butts was a standout player in the Atlanta United Academy from 2016-2019, helping the club win the U15-U16 2016/17 national title. “Being a part of Atlanta United’s academy was very fun,” Liam told BGN. “Being able to experience high level coaching and game speed everyday was very crucial in my development.”
“It was a very competitive environment with great players around. Also, being around professionals really gave me more motivation and an insight into what I have to do to potentially play first team football one day.”
Then, his soccer journey took him up to Penn State. “I originally chose Penn State because it was the school that fit all my requirements,” he said. “Penn State is in the Big 10 which is one of the most competitive leagues in the country. I felt that coming here would give me the best chance to play quality competition regularly.”
“Another major decision for me was the coaching staff. Jeff (Cook) and the rest of the coaching staff made me feel at home when I came to visit and I really believed that I could develop into a better player under their guidance.”
Liam added, “Outside of sports, the school is a wonderful place. It has great education, great people, and beautiful scenery, My favorite thing about this university is the sense of togetherness. Being on campus at Penn State feels like you’re a part of a giant family. Everyone in the community is very supportive and happy. It’s a great environment to be around.”
As a freshman for Penn State in 2019, Butts was a breakout star. He scored nine goals, including five match-winners, and was named to the All-Big Ten First Team and All-Big Ten Freshman Team. “I attribute that breakout season to the combination of a few things,” he said. “I believe coming from a high quality academy, such as Atlanta United, really helped me prepare and get used to the speed of the college game.”
Absolute Surgical Stuff from @PennStateMSOC 😷
Liam Butts finishes near post off of a beautiful pass from Molloy. The Nittany Lions are in control. pic.twitter.com/dMXz9aq7aO
— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) October 16, 2019
“Another thing that factored into my early success was the coaching staff. Jeff and the coaching staff really took their time with me and explained what they expected of me on a day to day basis. Having this feedback and interaction with the coaches was essential because they were pretty much outlining what I had to do to be successful in the game. It was just up to me at that point to receive their feedback and implement it in my game.”
Butts has experienced a drop in production this season with zero goals and one assist in his five appearances. “I personally believe that I’ve been playing well and putting myself in positions to score. If I keep putting myself in the position to score, the goals will come. Also, the team this year is loaded on the offensive end. This year in our particular system, I feel like I’ve been a lot more active during the game. My pressing and creative runs have gotten alot better, and these actions allow us to get the ball and create more attacking opportunities.”
When it comes to the strikers he likes to watch, he listed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Thierry Henry, and Harry Kane. “I feel like Aubameyang fits my style of play because he is very active up top and likes to float around and create changes for others,” Butts said. “He also has very good positioning in the box and that’s one aspect from his game I want to incorporate into mine as well.”
With Liam helping to open things up in the attack, Penn State finished the 2021 regular season with a 6-1-1 record. Reflecting on the regular season and looking ahead to the Big Ten Tournament, Butts said, “I believe some things we do extremely well are applying pressure and being aggressive on offense. We have played our best soccer when we are constantly putting pressure on the other team and then being aggressive when we finally regain the ball in the final 3rd.”
— Penn State Men’s Soccer (@PennStateMSOC) April 6, 2021
“Another thing that will be a major key to success is the defending of set pieces. In our league in particular, a lot of teams look to utilize set pieces as momentum boosters and ways they can score and get back into games. If we can better defend our box, I feel we will nullify a lot of teams’ chance creation. This team is capable of winning the Big 10 tournament and challenging for a national title. With the combination of our style of play and impressive squad depth, sky’s the limit.”
The journey to win the Big Ten title begins tomorrow when the #2-seed Nittany Lions host #7-seed Ohio State. The match will kick off at noon and will be live on the Big Ten Network.
Once Butts is done leaving his legacy at Penn State, he’d be excited about the opportunity to head back home and play for Atlanta United‘s first team. The Lawrenceville, Georgia native explained, “Playing for your hometown’s professional club is every kid’s dream. It would be a super special moment for my family since they’ve supported me from day one and have seen how much work I’ve had to put in to be in my current position.”
In addition to athletic talent, Georgia is always producing top musical artists. Picking his top three songs from fellow Georgia natives, Butts went with “March Madness” by Future, “The Bigger Picture” by Lil Baby, and “Welcome to Atlanta” by Jermaine Dupri.
If he continues to develop and reach his full potential, it could be Welcome to Atlanta United soon for Penn State’s Liam Butts.