Growing up in Douglasville, Georgia, George Bello has been dreaming about making his professional debut for a long time.

“It was a blessing,” he says with a smile. “To make my professional debut, I’ve been dreaming about it my whole life.”

The first appearance as a pro is an unforgettable moment for any young player, but it was just the latest exclamation point on a rollercoaster month for the 16-year-old left back. Just a few weeks ago, Bello was named an alternate for the first-team roster, joining the players on the matchday squad to be welcomed in Mercedes-Benz Stadium by the Five Stripes faithful.

“That was a surreal moment walking into Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the first team, for sure, he says. “It’s just great to see all the fans. To be in a suit with all the guys was a great feeling. It was a really happy moment in my life, so I’d love to do it again.”

From academy to USL to first team, Bello looking to build on rollercoaster month - https://atlanta-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/Bello2.jpg

Just being named in the first-team squad is a testament to his ability, but Bello is getting all the minutes he can. He also featured for the Academy team at the Generation Adidas Cup just a few weeks ago, facing off against some of the best young talent in the United States and abroad.

“They’re great experiences. This is what I do, it’s what I love to do and what I’ve wanted to do all my life. I’ve been doing it for a while now, playing up above my age and returning to my age group. it just makes me into a better person and improves me as a player on and off the pitch.”

It also rounds out his skillset. From being a squad player at first-team training to a starter at the USL level and a focal point of the academy roster, it’s helping him learn how to be both a better player and teammate.

"Having different roles for each team gives me experience, it also gives me a lot of motivation to get where I want to be. As I go through each team, I get to know every role. And as I learn each of those I can keep growing and developing myself."

This past weekend, Bello admits he felt jitters ahead of his first professional start. But he grew into the game and showed the potential Atlanta United coaches have raved about, making a key contribution to the game’s first goal.

“I think they changed it to an own goal, but he certainly started and finished the play so I’m going to give it to him,” laughed ATL UTD 2 coach Scott Donnelly. “That’s why he’s such a huge prospect for the club, because he has the ability to play high up the field as well as in a defensive role. We have no hesitation to put him on the field and trust him for 90 minutes, and he rewarded that faith with a good performance.”

A promising start for sure, but Bello, who is currently balancing the workload of a high school student with a budding professional career, is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

“As I got into the game I felt good,” he says. “I just need to build on that performance, don’t get complacent and keep developing myself as a player. This is just the beginning, so I just have to keep going.”

And the next step comes up next weekend, with a chance to play in his hometown for the first time as a professional.

“I can’t wait,” he says. “I have a lot of friends and family coming out for this one.”

Make sure you’re there to see Bello and some of Atlanta’s other brightest young talents take the field for ATL UTD 2 against Penn FC on Sunday. Tickets are still available, make sure you’ve reserved yours here.