Atlanta United 2 began their inaugural preseason Saturday afternoon at the training ground in Marietta, drawing 1-1 with Georgia State and defeating Furman 2-0 after playing each college team for 45 minutes. Although it was one match’s worth of action, there are a lot of positive thoughts that come to mind.
George Bello could be the story of ATLUTD 2’s season
Although he was offically signed to a Homegrown contract at the start of the year, Bello has gone largely unnoticed. That may have a lot to do with him being the youngest of all the HG’s at 16, and that could insinuate that Bello is the least likely to contribute to the first team this season. However, it’s important to remember the accolades the Douglasville native has already received: 2016/17 USSDA U16 Player of the Year, was previously the U15 USYNT captain, and considered by many to be one of, if not the best American player in his age group.
Bello was arguably the most impressive player on the pitch Saturday. The left back showed no fear in intercepting opposing passes and springing counterattacks with precise through balls. He’s an exceptionally smart player for his age, and if he can solidfy himself as a starter for the USL side(which he should), watch out.
Lagos Kunga will be a focal point of the attack
Here’s another Homegrown that will benefit greatly from consistent playing time with professionals. Kunga controlled AU2’s attack during the first half against Georgia State. His liveliness paid off in the 18th minute, as the Angolan-American scored after a stepover inside the box forced enough hesitiation from a State defender to allow Kunga space for the goal.
The glaring caveat in Kunga’s game is how left foot-heavy he is. If the coaching staff can help him be a little more ambidextrous, it’ll help Kunga reach his full potential. With that being said, he’s certainly expected to pay an important role for the reserve side in 2018.
Newell’s old boys’ are our new boys
Gaston Cardozo and Brian Gambarte are fun. Cardozo rotated often within the midfield, playing as a 6, 8, or 10 throughout the match. He’s an efficient passer. Gambarte will quickly become a fan favorite with the flair he plays with on the wing and the skill moves he isn’t afraid to use on opposing defenders.
Deedson Vixamar is being rewarded opportunities
After Deedson Vixamar’s tremendous output in Generation Adidas Cup qualifying for the U17 academy team(nine goals and seven assists in six matches), he was rewarded with the chance to prove himself with the reserve team. Vixamar took full advantage, scoring in the dying minutes of the second half to continue his (multiple fire emojis) run of form. It’s great to see academy players recompensed for playing well with the academy. Hopefully an even bigger reward comes for Vixamar and we see him getting professional minutes this season.
Young guys, veterans, and trialists
There was an array of different player situations on the pitch yesterday. Between signed USL veterans who are ready to contribute immediately, the aforementioned Homegrown players ready to make a name for themselves, an academy player looking to find a place in the squad, and trialists who are fighting for a job, this team is in a scenario not seen too often in professional sports. Jack Metcalf, one of the veterans who will be looked upon to keep the team steady, talked about getting everyone on the same page.
I think for a lot of people, whatever age you play at, you’ve been a trialist or a newcomer at some point. Everyone knows how it is. It’s tough coming into a team and try to put your mark on it. It’s on us to help them out. The same thing goes for the younger guys. That’s just apart of the process, especially in preseason.
Head coach Scott Donnelly adds that the team is doing well to acquiant themselves with one another.
The group has proven to already have formed a little bit of a team bond. They’re very good people, which was part of the point of bringing these people together. In terms of the players, there are players on our roster that do need some different things. With some of the older players, it’s giving them some more detailed tactical information or tweaking a few things in their game and also asking them to help be leaders and help set the team culture. Alternately, there are things with some of the young players where we’re working on some of the more fundamental aspects of their game as prospects so that they continue to improve, and hopefully one day they’re an option for the first team.
It’s a very similar philosophy as the first team, except for one big thing
Long corner kicks. They take long corner kicks.
I think people are going to quickly fall in love with the reserve team. They’ll be everything we could hope for from a development standpoint. It’s yet to be seen if positive match results in the USL will follow, but it’s going to be fun watching a group of players with unique circumstances and goals come together on the pitch.