Atlanta United’s academy season sprung into life this past weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the club’s three oldest academy squads kicked off the season in strong fashion. On this week’s prospects recap, we look at the results from those games, as well as some academy alumni who are making noise of their own around the country.
Off to a Strong Start
The U15’s, 17’s and 19’s got their 2017-18 Development Academy season underway this past weekend with games against Charlotte’s two DA clubs, Carolina Rapids and Charlotte Soccer Academy. Atlanta United’s highly-touted U19’s won both matchups despite missing several key players to national team duties. Against the Rapids on Saturday, the U19’s squandered a 2-0 advantage in the second half, but a late winner from substitute Dawson Gideon earned them the three points. Former Philadelphia Union youth Chad Letts scored the opener 15 minutes into his Atlanta United academy debut. Sunday’s victory was more comfortable, a 5-0 win over CSA in which James Brighton, scorer of 19 goals a year ago for the U16’s, got off the mark.
That's how you kick off a season— ATLUTD Academy (@AcademyATLUTD) September 11, 2017
James Brighton with the acrobatic GOAL for @AcademyATLUTD! pic.twitter.com/Ojklha5ykW
The U17’s also took a pair of victories from the weekend, topping the Rapids 5-0 and Charlotte SA 4-1. Edson Candela-Perez and Jackson Conway each scored in both games, with the former nabbing a brace on Sunday. Both players are continuing their good form from the Liga MX International tournament in August, where Conway scored four times and Candela-Perez was a constant danger from the wing. The U15’s had a more difficult weekend than their older counterparts, losing 2-0 to the Rapids on Saturday before rebounding with a 2-1 win over CSA. Sunday’s goals were scored by Aldo Campos and Brandon Manzanarez, two players who made their debut for Atlanta United after arriving from local youth power Concorde Fire. While with Concorde a season ago, the duo led their team to multiple victories over Atlanta United, and clearly they impressed the club enough then to be a part of it now.
The U13’s and U14’s were also in Charlotte over the weekend, with both teams coming off of dominant victories a week ago against Lanier Soccer Association. Both teams have started the year well scoring a lot of goals. U14 Mateo Bargagna and U13 Danial Sebhatu each have four tallies to their name through just two matches each, and both look on their way to big scoring totals in 2017-18.
Update on the Inaugural Alumni Class
While the new academy season gets underway, the first group of academy graduates continues to make their own way in both college and the professional ranks. The NCAA season is in full swing, and several academy products have already established themselves for their new squads in their freshman seasons. Kareve Richards (Mercer), Bryce Washington (Rutgers), Alhaji Tambadu and Aldair Cortes (both Georgia Southern) are all regular starters for their respective schools. Washington has been particularly important for his team, having played every minute of the season for the Scarlet Knights. Wake Forest’s Machop Chol made his ACC debut off the bench as the 2nd-ranked Demon Deacons defeated #8 Louisville last Saturday. Chol is slowly earning more opportunities in Wake’s loaded attacking rotation after scoring on his debut a couple of weeks ago.
Meanwhile, three academy graduates are beginning to make their way in the pros. Lagos Kunga has been regularly training with the first team in Marietta, while Patrick Okonkwo is currently “on loan” with the Charleston Battery along with fellow academy alumni Laurent Kissiedou. Both Okonkwo and Kissiedou made their pro debuts recently in a loss against the Richmond Kickers, and both of them should have some role to play for the Battery as the USL regular season winds down. Okonkwo and Kunga will be a part of the first team in 2018 as homegrown players, but it’s not entirely clear what Atlanta United has planned for Kissiedou. There have been many rumors about the Five Stripes looking to start a USL team soon, so that may be the plan for Kissiedou long term, but regardless, it’s clear they think highly of the creative young midfielder.