U-16's clinch semifinal berth with 4-1 win over Bethesda

Atlanta United’s U-16s are moving on in the USSDA Playoffs after a dominant 4-1 win over the Bethesda Soccer Academy at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta.

Head Coach Tony Annan opted for a strong lineup with elimination on the line, with two homegrown signings ­George Bello and Andrew Carleton leading the charge. The full lineup: Sai Brown (GK), George Bello (LB), Will Crain (CB), Kendall Edwards (CB), Natneal Mcdonald (RB), Charlie Asensio (CM), Alesandro Castro (CM), Dylan Gaither (CM), Zyen Jones (LW), Andrew Carleton (RW), James Brighton (ST).

Atlanta started on the front foot, with Carleton and Bello each testing the goalkeeper in the opening fifteen minutes. But the teams were forced back into the locker rooms due to severe weather in the opening quarter hour.

But much like their senior team counterparts, the red, black and gold turned on the style after the rain-forced intermission. The first goal came just minutes after the delay, with Dylan Gaither turning a low cross past the goalkeeper to take the lead in the 18th minute.

They would turn on the style once again for the second with a sweeping counter-attack. Alesandro Castro started the break with a perfect through ball to Zyen Jones, who took it to another gear to fly by the defender and cross it in to Andrew Carleton, who kept his cool and slotted it into the empty net.

James Brighton would send an unstoppable header past the Bethesda goalkeeper to make it 3-0 just moments before halftime, sending a crowd of hundreds into applause.

The second half started with a few chances from Bethesda but more dominant possession play from the midfield triangle of Castro, Gaither and Asensio. But after Jones acted as provider for Carleton in the first half, Atlanta’s #10 returned the favor in the second, sending in a low cross after a beautiful short corner routine for Zyen to poke home past the helpless goalkeeper in the 67th minute.

That effectively ended the game as a contest, though Atlanta would win a penalty and Bethesda would earn a late consolation goal minutes before the end. But the ref blew the final whistle with the score at 4-1, and Atlanta United securing its place in the semifinals. They’ll travel to California for the semifinals later this month.