While the first team rumbles toward the home stretch of their season, the Atlanta United Academy continues to work hard toward the club’s key goal of soccer development in the South. And it’s been another busy month full of achievement for the future of the Five Stripes. Here’s what you may have missed over the past month:
Another MLS debut
A month after Andrew Carleton’s first start in MLS debut, we now have another Atlanta United Academy graduate coming through the ranks into the first team. 16-year-old left back George Bello became the youngest player ever to debut for Atlanta United in a league match this weekend after his late substitute appearance on the road against D.C. United. While the result ended in disappointment on the night, Bello showed glimpses of how special he was in a 15-minute appearance, showing his speed, attacking instincts and lockdown one-on-one defensive ability against players with much more experience. The Douglasville native showed gratitude for the opportunity after the match, but also hunger for more as he continues his development as one of the most exciting young prospects in his age group in all of America.
Thriving in USL
Another of Atlanta United’s Homegrown Academy graduates is making his mark in USL. Winger Lagos Kunga put on a show versus Toronto FC II, scoring two goals in a man-of-the-match performance that earned him a spot in the USL Team of the Week. Meanwhile, Academy graduate Dylan Gaither scored his first professional goal with a last-minute stunner of an equalizer versus Indy Eleven, and two more Academy graduates –– Natnael McDonald and Luke Mitchell –– each made their professional debut as well. With Jackson Conway making his return from injury with a substitute appearance last week, ATL UTD 2 continues to serve a valuable role in the development of these young players.
Liga Mx Internacional Tournament
At the Academy level, the offseason is a short one… and the U-17’s came out with one of their toughest tests of the season already. A mix of younger players and trialists playing under new Academy coach Stephen Glass headed to Mexico for the LigaMX Internacional Tournament to face some of the best competition in North America in LigaMX sides Atlas, Club América, Chivas and Pachuca as well as MLS powerhouses Toronto, FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy. It was a trial by fire, headlined by a draw with Mexican giants Chivas, as well as a bonding experience for the young players, who got to train at the Mexican National Team’s home base and got a tour of the city and nearby ancient pyramids.
Academy Season kicks off
While the U-17’s were in Mexico, the U-15 side headed west themselves for a preseason tournament that showed just how promising their season could be. Wearing the King Peach jerseys for the first time, they some strong youth sides to cap off an undefeated preseason. A 2-1 and 2-0 win over LigaMX sides Tigres and Atlas respectively were followed up by a 1-0 win of LAFC. While preseason results don’t count on the final record, the young players’ style showed the huge potential they have this year.
The results did count later last month, and the potential turned into results in the first round of USSDA matches. Facing their neighbors to the Northeast, the Carolina Rapids, the Atlanta United Academy went 5-0 across all age groups over the course of the weekend, including a 5-0 win for the U-14 side. After a championship and a finals appearances in its first two years in USSDA competition, Atlanta United’s Academy is showing more great potential heading into this season.
Along with their budding professional aspirations, Atlanta United Academy players continue to turn heads for managers on the international level. Academy graduates Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin are in Florida representing the U-20 and U-19 USMNT sides in a round robin invitational tournament. Meanwhile, Efrain Morales got the honor of his first international callup, joining the U.S. U-15 side in their latest training camp late last month.
Academy Goal of the Month
The U-14 side is showing the kind of technical build-up play Atlanta United is trying to cultivate in its youth players, and that was on full display in this great piece of skill for a goal against the Carolina Rapids.