Welcome back to the second installment of the Atlanta United Prospects Season Preview. Last week we told you about all of the former academy players who are starting seasons with their new college teams. This week, we begin our look at the current academy setup, beginning with the younger teams and players in the system. For these kids, a potential professional deal is years away, and wins and losses are inconsequential compared to showing individual progress as a player. For each team, we’ve chosen two standouts that fans should have their eye on this season as they continue to develop as players in the Atlanta United mold.
Atlanta United U13
This team is made up of players born in the year 2005, or in school year terms, 6th and 7th graders. Last year’s academy didn’t have an age group for 2005’s, so only five players who played up an age on last year’s U12 team can be found here along with the best from the rest of metro-Atlanta. The U13’s are also stepping up to playing 11v11 for the first time, which can be a tough adjustment. Needless to say, predicting anything about a group of players who haven’t hit a growth spurt yet is kind of a waste of time, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t talent here worth mentioning.
Danial Sebhatu - Forward
Sebhatu was the youngest player in the entire academy last season, but that didn’t stop the young striker from bagging 21 goals in 24 games. The club was so impressed with his performance that they brought him into the squad for June’s U14 DA Showcase, where Sebhatu was playing 3 age groups up. Another high-scoring season would establish Sebhatu as one of the best forwards at his age in the country.
Alan Carleton - Midfielder
You know all about the oldest Carleton brother, but younger brother Alan is slowly making a name for himself as well. His 15 goals for the U12’s was an impressive return for a midfielder, and he’s already showing his creative ability with the ball at his feet. Plus, at an age where so much development occurs at home, it doesn’t hurt having a member of the first team to take on in the backyard.
Atlanta United U14
The U14’s, like the U13’s, will play a schedule containing 6 other metro-Atlanta clubs and seven clubs from North Carolina. Unlike the 05’s, developing chemistry as a team shouldn’t be a big issue for this group, with 16 players from last season’s U12’s on the 20-man roster. This is also the age group that will be most-heavily scouted by US Soccer this year, and the best prospects can expect national team call-ups starting early in 2018. With that in mind, here’s who to watch out for over the next few months.
Mateo Bargagna - Forward
Bargagna dominated the U12 bracket a season ago, scoring a team-high 24 goals mostly cutting in from the wing. He’s a big, athletic kid for his age, but that doesn’t mean the ability with the ball at his feet isn’t there as well. Older brother Valentin of the U15’s earned his first national team call-up last season, and Mateo’s call may not be far behind.
Jose De Avila - Midfielder
Before De Avila joined Atlanta United, the then 11-year old was invited to trial with Pachuca, arguably the most productive academy in Mexico. The family decided to stay in the Atlanta area, and young Jose showed why the Mexican club was interested after tallying 14 goals for the U12 team. He may not project as a goal-scorer long term, but regardless, the young midfielder promises to be a handful for opponents all year long.
Atlanta United U15
The U15’s are the best embodiment of Atlanta United’s “Team of the South” status, as players from four other states have arrived in Marietta to join this squad. Because of this mix of new and returning players, this team may be the most interesting in the entire academy. At a tournament in Montreal in June, despite some strong individual performances, the squad as a whole struggled, gaining just one win in six matches. Regardless, there’s some tremendous talent in this team, and if it’s developed well, this age group could be a real force down the road.
Vicente Reyes - Goalkeeper
No position on the field is more difficult to earn a US Youth National Team call-up than in between the sticks, yet that’s exactly what Vicente Reyes was able to do in his first year with the Five Stripes. The 8th-grader is already 6 feet tall, has great reactions and is improving with the ball at his feet. Keepers notoriously develop more slowly than other positions, but regardless, Reyes is a real prospect for the long-term future in Atlanta.
Kobey Stoup - Midfielder
The new out-of-state recruits in the U15’s are a very talented bunch, and Stoup is foremost in that group. He got himself noticed at a national level while playing for the Capital City Streaks in Montgomery, Alabama, and his first action with Atlanta United was wearing the captain’s armband at the tournament in Montreal. Stoup has a chance to set himself apart in a crowded midfield this season and possibly earn some minutes at an older age as well.
That’s it for part two of our preview. Next week it gets serious, as we look at the older competitive age groups in the Atlanta United Academy.