Atlanta United is hard at work preparing for matchday as they look to return from their week break in MLS action with a win. While the team's main focus is on their next opponent, there’s a storyline developing on the team’s left wing: with Mikey Ambrose joining Greg Garza on the long-term injury list, Academy graduate left back George Bello has been called up to permanent first-team training. It’s a possible opportunity for one of the best players in the country at his age group.
“It’s been great, being able to train with the guys, especially after coming back from a long injury,” Bello said. “It’s been great getting back in the groove again and getting back into playing time.”
He’s clearly earned the trust of his head coach Tata Martino, who named the talented 16-year-old in the matchday squad for the first time last weekend. But he’s turning the head of some of his more experienced teammates on the training ground as well.
“I’m excited to see [Bello] on the field someday because I think he has a really bright future,” Captain Michael Parkhurst told media this week. “He doesn’t shy away from a tackle, he is fast and athletic and able to get up and down the wing. He has all the attributes you’d want out of an outside back.”
“Anyone who watched the youth team or ATL UTD 2 games knows he’s a good athlete and good on the ball,” added Chris McCann. “He’s level-headed and down to earth, and a nice humble kid. If he keeps going and progressing the way he does, he’ll get his opportunities sooner rather than later.”
If anyone knows Bello’s potential, Chris McCann could be one of them. As a fellow left back that has more experience under his belt, McCann is one of a few players the young Homegrown has looked up to for guidance on his game.
“I usually ask questions to Greg Garza, since he plays my position, also Chris McCann, Mikey, all those guys,” Bello said. “I always look to them for advice and for friendship, they’re great guys. They give me tips on positioning, where to be at some points. They’re great just being there for you for your questions.”
“I’ve learned you have to be consistent,” Bello added. “You have to bring the same intensity every day at training and never let down. Never take a break, just keep going and going.”
“We [tell him] the same thing we said to Andrew [Carleton] a few weeks ago when he made his first start. He’s done so well to get here, he’s played really well to get into Tata’s thoughts to get into the 18. He’s a good player, a young player, and a hungry player. He just has to keep going the way he’s going, realizing there’s still work to do once you get there. You have to keep going, and I’m sure he has to keep doing that.”
Bello credits the education he got in the Atlanta United Academy as crucial in preparing him for his elevation to the first team.
“Coach Tony [Annan] has taught us a lot about always trying to be a leader,” Bello said. “He’s a great role model for us, given us a lot of tips and tricks to be able to succeed at the highest level. I just try to make myself to actually be there, not being quiet. You want to be loud, encouraging your teammates. You don’t want to be the quiet one not contributing to the team effort. I just try to help my teammates out.”
What’s clear is Bello’s special talent, and the trust his teammates have in him if his number is called.
“Hopefully he’s ready and takes advantage of the opportunity,” Parkhurst said. “That’s what he needs right now, that opportunity, and he might get it this year. If he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do well because he’s talented.”
For his part, Bello is keeping his feet planted firmly on the ground. But he has the confidence to step in when the team needs him.
“I feel ready for whenever my opportunity comes. I’ll just keep on playing, keep on progressing, keep on improving myself so when the opportunity comes I’ll be ready for it.”