Atlanta United will wrap up the hectic early-Summer stretch of their schedule tonight against the Quakes at Bobby Dodd, but in just two days, another big match will take place up in Marietta at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. That’s where Atlanta United’s U16’s will host their national quarterfinal in the US Soccer Development Academy playoffs, where the winner moves onto the National Championships weekend in Carson, California. We’re here to get you up to speed on the upcoming match, as well as review the 2003’s recent trip to Quebec.
U16’s Quarterfinal Preview
After winning their playoff group in Indiana a week ago, Atlanta United’s U16 team is ready to get back on the pitch as they host their quarterfinal match against Bethesda SC. Bethesda hails from the Maryland side of the soccer-mad DC metro area. Their academy program has produced some decent players in it’s four-year existence, most notably Portland Timbers and US U20 striker Jeremy Ebobisse.
Barring any last-minute injuries or changes of heart, Atlanta United will likely roll out a similar lineup to their previous playoff matches. In the group stage, it was winger Zyen Jones who stole the show, scoring in each of the three games. Jones possesses a unique blend of pace and power and his finishing ability has improved drastically over the last year with the US U17 National Team, making him a handful for any defender. George Bello will be relied on, as he always is, for transitioning the team from defense to attack with his speed and dribbling ability. He probably creates more chances than anyone on this team despite playing left-back. Dylan Gaither is also a player to watch for his ability to control the tempo of the game in midfield as well as his excellent set-piece deliveries. In a game such as this, a well-struck free kick or corner could be the difference in advancing to the next round or not.
Atlanta’s defensive unit, anchored by keeper Sai Brown and center backs Kendall Edwards and Will Crain, put on a solid performance by only allowing two goals in the group stage. That being said, they’re about to face maybe the most difficult opposing striker they’ve seen all season in Bethesda’s Gabe Segal. Segal is a regular on the scoresheet both for his club and for the U16 National Team. His 23 goals are good for 3rd-highest in the nation, and 15 of them have come in the team’s 15 matches since March. Segal is good enough to at least be considered for the US’s U17 World Cup roster, which is certainly saying something when you look at that team’s attacking group. The young Five Stripes will have their hands full with him on Thursday.
The match kicks off Thursday, July 6th at 7 pm, but the club will open the gates to the facility at 5:30. Furthermore, they’ve asked fans to either carpool, ride-share, or take public transit due to the limited parking on the premises. These kids have certainly earned your support, so come out and cheer them on if you can.
New-look 03’s Play their First Tournament
No age group in Atlanta United’s academy has seen more player turnover over the last couple of months than the soon-to-be U15’s. Over the last weekend, the team joined five other MLS academies as well as Serie A club Bologna FC 1909 in the Montreal International U14 Tournament. Over the course of four days, United went 1-3-2 in six matches ranging between 40 to 60 minutes in length.
More so than any other team in the academy, the new U15’s are made up of players from all across the Southeast, and some of the new faces showed a glimpse of their ability in Montreal. Joseph Collins, adopted from an orphanage in Ghana and developed in the Chattanooga FC Academy, was the tournament’s joint-top scorer with three goals and looks to be an exciting young talent. Another player who made a big impression was Kobey Stoup of Montgomery, Alabama, who captained the side throughout the tournament. He’s already been to a national team camp and is very highly-rated by national outlets such as TopDrawerSoccer. Charlotte’s Bryce McMillen, Johnson City’s Brayden Conner and Clinton, Mississippi’s Owen Barber are just a few more of the players joining the academy from around the South. Between the new recruits and the returning standouts from last-year’s team, the U15’s will be an intriguing group to follow in the upcoming academy season.