It's been an action-packed month for the future of Atlanta United. Here's what you may have missed from the Atlanta United Academy.
The U-16/17 Academy team put together another impressive run in the US Soccer Development Academy playoffs, defending last year’s title with a run all the way to the finals of this year’s tournament. They beat out, Real Salt Lake, Weston FC and a strong Montreal Impact side to make it to the National Championship to face Western Conference powerhouse Seattle Sounders. Despite numerous injuries –– including the age group’s top goalscorer Jackson Conway and the captain in the back line, Kendall Edwards –– the squad put up a strong fight in the final match. But in the end, they fell just short in the final match in their first loss in playoff play in two seasons to finish second in the nation. Meanwhile, the U-18/19 squad also finished their season with a respectable run of their own. But a classy Montreal Impact side was just too much, ending their season in the round of 16. That marks the end of the Academy side for all groups, but the new season starts just around the corner, so be on the look out for another chance for postseason glory starting soon.
USSDA Award Ceremony
If the Atlanta United Academy’s success this season wasn’t already proven on the field, they got special recognition from the U.S. Soccer Development Academy off the field in their end-of-the-year awards ceremony. Defender George Campbell and forward Jackson Conway were each named in the Eastern Conference Team of the Year in the U-16/17 division, while goalkeeper Justin Garces and defender Will Crain were each recognized in the U-18/19 division. Garces got a special nod, earning the honor as the Eastern Conference Player of the Year in his age group. And as Academy Director Tony Annan has said time and time again, the Academy’s mission is just as much about helping the athletes grow as people as well as players on the field. So he will be pleased with the final team award of the night, the Community Award for the Eastern conference, recognizing the team’s involvement in the Atlanta community. All in all, a night of well-deserved recognition for some promising prospects for the future of Atlanta United and U.S. Soccer.
Two of Atlanta United’s most promising young prospects will represent their hometown during MLS All-Star week this year, and they’ll be led by a familiar face. Andrew Carleton and Lagos Kunga were named in the roster for the MLS Homegrown Game, with Atlanta United Academy Director Tony Annan serving as head coach for the team. They will be joined by the most promising prospects in MLS at the Atlanta United Training Ground to face the U-20 side of LigaMX powerhouse Tigres the day before the MLS All-Star game. Make sure you’re there to support the future of the club by getting your tickets here.
An Academy Graduate Goes Pro
ATL UTD 2 is already demonstrating its worth as a great place for some of Atlanta United’s most promising youngsters to prove themselves. And one in particular has taken his chance, with Academy graduate Alessandro Castro signing a professional contract with the USL club. The classy Honduran international midfielder is a technical, calming influence in the center of the field, and ATL UTD 2 coach Scott Donnelly saw his potential and rewarded him with a professional contract. It’s a perfect example of what ATL UTD 2 is intended to do: give opportunities to local youngsters to get professional minutes, and now Castro has a chance to prove he belongs at the top level.
Goal of the Month
No Academy recap is completed without a piece of class on the field, and this month’s best goal earned a place in the national spotlight. Blake White’s long-range rocket was ranked in Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays, and as you can tell, it deserved its spot in the rankings.