This past week was a very positive one for Atlanta United’s academy teams as well as their youth national team representatives around the world. This week’s prospects recap takes a look at all of that, as well as a look ahead at this weekend’s all-Atlanta academy derby.
Victories and Milestones for the Academy
The U16 and U18 Atlanta United academy teams returned home over the weekend for their first matches at the new training center in over a month. The two teams were entertaining Charlotte-area academies Carolina Rapids and Charlotte Soccer Academy, having just returned from road games against the same two clubs.
The U18’s started the weekend off with a resounding 6-0 win over the Rapids. After Machop Chol opened the scoring in the 6th minute, Atlanta United finished off the Rapids thanks to a Patrick Okonkwo hat-trick and a brace from U18-debutant Dawson Gideon. Okonkwo then followed up his three-goal effort by scoring the only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Charlotte SA, which was also his 20th goal of the season. For Okonkwo, this marks his third-consecutive season with 20+ goals in the Development Academy (the previous two were with Georgia United). For context, only eight U18 players in the entire country have scored 20 goals this season, and only five managed the feat last year. Just off of goal-scoring returns alone, Okonkwo has more than justified his place as one of the elite amateur strikers in the United States.
The U16’s, meanwhile, took a 1-1 draw on Saturday against the Rapids before beating CSA 2-0 on Sunday. Center back Will Crain notched the 71st minute equalizer against the Rapids, while Sunday’s goals came from substitutes Jackson Conway and Michael Johnson. Midfielder Chase Oliver, a regular with Atlanta United’s U14 team, also came off the bench for the U16’s on Sunday, becoming the youngest player to appear for the team this season in the process.
National Team Successes Continue
This week saw the final group games of the U17 CONCACAF Championship take place, and with it came more appearances for the six young Five Stripes involved. After Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin started for the Americans in their group-clinching 4-3 win over Mexico, academy forward Zyen Jones got his chance to impress in the final group match against El Salvador. Jones did more than that, tallying the only goal in the Americans’ 1-0 win.
Academy defender Alex Bahr played a full 90 minutes back-to-back wins for Honduras, keeping their World Cup Qualification hopes alive. Los Catrachos defeated Haiti 3-1 before drubbing Cuba 7-1 in the opener of the second round. This sets up a big showdown on Wednesday against the unbeaten Americans, with Honduras only needing a draw to qualify. Jamaica’s qualification came to an unsuccessful end in the group stages after a 5-1 loss to Mexico. Academy players Kendall Edwards and Blake White each made a pair of substitute appearances in the tournament for the Reggae Boyz.
The US U15 National Team, featuring academy standouts George Bello and Daniel Mangarov, also won the prestigious Torneo Delle Nazioni in Italy. Bello and Mangarov each scored goals in the tournament-opener, a 4-0 win over Slovenia. The Americans went on to claim victories over Russia and Portugal before beating England 2-1 in the final. Back in 2015, when the current U17’s were U15’s, they also won this tournament, led by Andrew Carleton’s brace in the final. Bello, Mangarov, and the rest of this roster should make up the core of the next U17 World Cup cycle.
“Atlanta Development Academy Derby” this weekend
This Saturday, all five Atlanta United academy teams will play against Atlanta-area youth soccer powerhouse Concorde Fire. Concorde is the home team and will host the matches at Georgia Soccer Park in East Point. In their first two meetings this season, United’s U16 and U18 teams have dominated Concorde, taking four comfortable victories. In the younger age groups, however, the results have been mixed and the matches have been very competitive. The U12’s, 14’s and 18’s all kick off at noon, while the 13’s and 16’s get underway at 2:30. Head over to East Point on Saturday and check out some of the best that Atlanta youth soccer has to offer.