Last Saturday at Pace Academy, Atlanta United’s U18 and U16 academy teams faced off with their intra-city rivals Concorde Fire. Lagos Kunga’s hat trick paced the U18’s in a 5-2 win while the U16’s jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back in a 4-0 victory.
Early on in the U18 game, you could see the intensity was ratcheted up to another level with many of these players knowing one another well. United broke through first, Bryce Washington headed home a Victor Pereyra-Zavala corner in the 20th minute. Washington’s leaping ability gave him an unchallenged header above his marker.
After the goal, Atlanta increased the pressure and Concorde began to retreat into a deeper shell. In the 30th minute, Kunga opened his account for the day after pouncing on a loose ball in the box. Carlos Pineda for Concorde, a member of El Salvador’s youth national teams, earned a penalty after being taken down in the box. Goalkeeper Russell Shealy bailed his defender out by saving the penalty low to his right.
Concorde did pull a goal back right before the half when a quick free kick sent in Edward Raji all alone with Shealy. Raji popped the bouncing ball over Shealy’s head to make the score 2-1 at the break.
Junior Pineda, Carlos’ brother and another Salvadoran youth international, nearly equalized early in the second half as Concorde came out strong. As the game started to get stretched, both teams had opportunities to score. Kunga added his second after a great combination with Machop Chol and a left footed volley to make the score 3-1. Concorde answered quickly by earning another penalty, Ryan Capo converted this time to bring deficit back to one at 3-2.
Both teams had chances to add to the scoreline. Patrick Okonkwo was saved by Concorde’s goalkeeper Jeremy Lewis. Concorde nearly took advantage of some United turnovers near midfield on counterattacks. Kunga scored his fourth in the 80th minute to make Atlanta’s lead more comfortable. He took a cross from Michael Ille, beat a defender, and scored low to the far post. Ille finished off a great match with a late goal off a cross from Kareve Richards.
The U16’s entered the game on a high after a strong performance in Generation adidas Cup East Regional qualifying. They wasted no time getting up early on Concorde, Blake White’s through ball was finished by James Brighton in the 10th minute to open the scoring. Brighton added a second quickly, latching onto a back pass and beating the goalkeeper.
Dylan Gaither smashed a free kick over the wall that the goalkeeper could not hold to make it 3-0 in the 17th minute. Dawson Gideon blasted home a rebound in the 30th minute to make it 4-0.
In addition to the goalscorers, center back Will Crain, left back George Bello, and defensive midfielder Alessandro Castro played well in the win.
Concorde’s U13 team defeated United 3-0. United won the U14 game 2-0 and the clubs split their U12 games in their remaining games from Saturday’s derby day.
In other Atlanta United academy news, three players were called up for the Fall Semester of the U.S. U17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida. Recent Homegrown Player signing Chris Goslin will be joined by Carlos Asensio and Zyen Jones.