The primary purpose of the Atlanta United Academy is to cultivate world-class players with the goal of breaking into the first team, and the addition of ATL UTD 2 is a crucial piece of the puzzle to bridge young players to the professional level. The first signs of that progress were on full display in the team’s first month, with five Academy players getting called up for professional minutes. Homegrown signings George Bello, Chris Goslin and Lagos Kunga have all shown they are ready for starting roles in USL, as key contributors in the team’s unbeaten start. Meanwhile, defenders Will Crain and Kendall Edwards were each called up, with Edwards starting in a hard-fought draw against veteran side Penn FC. ATL UTD 2 is known as “The Proving Ground”, and each of the Academy players have shown they’re ready to prove themselves and continue their professional growth.
Kunga - USL Goal of the Month
While all of the Academy graduates made an impression at the Proving Ground of ATL UTD 2, there was one stunning highlight that turned heads league-wide. Lagos Kunga’s stunning dribble against the Charlotte Independence was named the USL Goal of the Month in March. Kunga has been a constant presence on the right wing for ATL UTD 2, adding the equalizing assist in the last match as well, taking full advantage of his opportunity for pro minutes.
Top Competition Across the Country
March held one of the busiest weekends in the history of the Atlanta United Academy, with teams fanning out across the country to face stiff competition. First, a strong showing for the U-17’s at the Generation Adidas Cup, who took on some of the best of the best in North America and beyond. They beat out fellow MLS side Portland Timbers with a dominant 3-0 win and placing in the top tier of the tournament, the Champions Division. After a hard-fought loss against LA Galaxy in the knockout stages, they got valuable match experience against French side Monaco, one of the premier academies in Europe. But special recognition goes to Jackson Conway, who finished as the top scorer on the weekend for the tournament.
Meanwhile, the U-19’s were facing more quality competition of their own in the Dallas Cup, the oldest and most prestigious youth soccer tournament in North America. They went head to head with Brazil’s E.C. Vitória, Spain’s Real Oviedo and Mexican side CF Monterrey Rayados. With two teams stretched across two different tournaments, it will be a crucial growth experience for players up and down the roster as they face the toughest competition possible to continue their growth and development toward first-team players.
Carleton’s First MLS Assist
Homegrown signing and Academy graduate Andrew Carleton continues to fight for first-team minutes at the MLS level, making late appearances in three straight matches for Atlanta United. He’s shown the skill and creativity on the ball that has earned him a spot in the first place, and he showed an extra bit of class against the Vancouver Whitecaps, laying this sweet cross perfectly onto the head of Josef Martinez for his first career assist in Major League Soccer.
Another Brighton Goal of the Year?
James Brighton earned top honors for the USSDA Goal of the Year last year with his stunning bicycle kick, and he may have topped himself again this past weekend. The Clemson-bound forward receives the ball at the halfway line, looks up, and lobs a perfect shot from all of 50 yards over the head of the opposing goalkeeper for another incredible goal of the year candidate.