It looked like this was going to be a convincing win for the Atlanta United U18 team late in their match against Kendall SC. However, two defensive miscues in the dying minutes proved costly.
Early on, Kendall SC was on the front foot. United defenders Bryce Washington and John Michael Bandy each had to clear shots off their goal-line after Kendall SC counter-attacks. However, the visitors finally took the lead midway through the first half as Miguel Perez nestled a short-range shot in the upper left 90.
It didn’t take Atlanta long to respond. Minutes later, Lagos Kunga’s attempt outside the box took a deflection off a Kendall SC defender to skip past the keeper and level the score. Patrick Okonkwo’s header looked to give Atlanta the lead late in the first half, but a tremendous save by Tomas Betton denied AUFC.
Early in the second half, Okonkwo’s determination to win the ball led to a terrific through ball from Kunga to Michael Ille for a 2-1 lead. An Alhaji Tambadu shot from point-blank range almost extended the lead, but more goalkeeping heroics from Betton kept the deficit at one.
The third Atlanta goal came when Okonkwo was tripped inside the box, allowing Machop Chol to convert from the penalty spot. However, great one-touch passing from Kendall SC led to Perez’s second goal of the match and a 3-2 scoreline.
It didn’t take long for United to regain their two-goal advantage. A blocked shot from Victor Zavala fell to the feet of Chol, who slotted it home to complete his brace and give Atlanta United the 4-2 lead. Chol looked to have gotten a hat-trick, but an offside call denied him his third.
It all seemed to be going Atlanta United’s way. Then suddenly, it wasn’t. A miscommunication between the defenders led to a late high line trap attempt, keeping Philippe Stengel onside. He took a through ball around goalkeeper Sam Morton to reduce the defict to one with less than ten minutes left in the match.
An 87th minute corner closed that gap, as Miguel Perez completed his hat-trick after a poor clearance from Atlanta United fell to his feet. One last chance was given to Atlanta in stoppage time, as a counter-attack saw Lagos Kunga fouled just outside the box. The free kick sailed just over the goal, and the referee blew the whistle for full time.
The last academy match at Pace may have ended on a slightly sour note, but the team’s time there definitely provided an array of lessons for a young group of players to grow from. An experience for every kind of situation can only bode well for the U18 team in the future.
The next U.S. Soccer Development Academy action for Atlanta United doesn’t come until January 21st, when they take on the Carolina Rapids in the team’s first match at the new training ground in Marietta.