ATLANTA UNITED ALERT: ATLANTA UNITED ACADEMY TEAMS OFFICIALLY CLINCH PLAYOFF PLACES
And they did it with 3 games still to play in the regular season.
Atlanta United’s academy returned to US Soccer Development Academy play this weekend, with both the U17’s and U19’s accomplishing a big season-long goal. We’ll get into that in this week’s prospects recap, as well as a couple of recent international call-ups that have drawn some attention.
Playoff-bound Once Again
For the second consecutive season, both the Atlanta United U19’s and U17’s have ensured a top 3 finish in the DA’s Southeast Division, therefore clinching a place in the seasons-end Development Academy Playoffs. The teams were in action at the training ground over the weekend against two clubs the academy has seen twice already this season: Charlotte Soccer Academy and Carolina Rapids.
Dawson Gideon and James Brighton both gave the U19’s a lead Saturday against Charlotte SA, but the visitors responded quickly each time to bring the match level. Brighton would have the last laugh, though, as the Clemson-bound striker scored his 19th goal of the season to give United a 3-2 victory. The U19’s stretched their unbeaten streak to 15 games on Sunday in a 3-0 win against the Rapids, with Gideon, Chad Letts and Dylan Gaither finding the back of the net. Kendall Edwards started at center back against the Rapids, returning to the academy from his 3-game stint with ATL UTD 2. Meanwhile, Donovan Paquet, a defender who recently arrived at the club from Belgium, made his debut with the U19’s by starting both of the weekend’s matches.
While it took the U19’s until Sunday to solidify a place in the playoffs, the U17’s officially clinched their place on Saturday by defeating CSA 2-1. Fresh off his professional debut last weekend, leading scorer Jackson Conway made the trip with ATL UTD 2 up to Pittsburgh on Saturday, but still made it back to Marietta in time to start on Sunday, as well as score his 27th goal of the DA season. Takuma Suzuki also found the net, but the U17’s dropped the points to the Rapids by a 3-2 scoreline.
With the playoffs officially confirmed, both academy sides will now look to clinch a second consecutive Southeast Division title. The U17’s can get it done this weekend with a win against local rivals Concorde Fire, while the U19’s are in a tight race with North Carolina FC and Weston FC that may go to the final game of the regular season.
The club’s younger age groups also took on CSA and the Rapids this weekend, and with one eye on the future, United appeared to be giving more players an opportunity to play up an age group to see what they can do. 2004’s Dagoberto Romero, Bryan Casanova and Efrain Morales have been regularly involved with the 03’s recently, and this weekend Jose De Avila, Evan Theriot and Caleb Wiley also got a chance to step up and play real minutes with the older team. In their place, 05’s Ty Wilson, Alan Carleton, Elijah Leslie and Jonathan Villal all appeared with the 04’s, with Wilson notching the only goal in a 1-0 win against CSA on Saturday. Wilson has scored 21 times on the season for the U13’s despite only appearing in 18 matches.
Making an Impression on the International Stage
Three Atlanta United youngsters made recent trips to Europe with their respective US Youth National Team rosters for some prestigious international competitions. U17 MNT regulars George Bello and Diego Lopez were apart of the American squad at the SportChain Cup in Spain, while U15 standout Kobey Stoup joined the U16 MNT at the Torneo Delle Nazioni in Italy.
While Bello has long-since established his reputation as a top young player in the United States, it was actually Lopez who drew more attention in Spain. The striker captained the U17’s twice in two matches against India, picking up the game-winning assist in each match. On-site viewers were impressed with the 16-year old, who showed his ability to find space out wide and make things happen as well as use his big frame to play back-to-goal and beat defenders in the air. Bello only started once for the U17’s before returning to play in USL, but the young Americans still managed to win the SportChain Cup in his absence.