Atlanta United’s academy continues to charge into 2018, and the prospects recap continues to cover it all. This week’s edition contains the academy’s weekend results, an interesting international call-up, and a tough match-up coming up on Saturday.
Continuing Winning Ways
Atlanta United’s U19’s, U17’s and U15’s hosted another weekend double header at the CHOA Training Ground last weekend, entertaining opposition from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Saturday’s games came against Chargers SC of Clearwater, and Sunday’s against IMG Academy out of Bradenton.
On Saturday, U19 striker James Brighton scored a brace against Chargers to give United a 2-0 lead. After Chargers got one back, Chad Letts put the game out of reach late with his 7th of the season, giving Atlanta a 3-1 win. Brighton was back on the score sheet on Sunday along with winger Jeremiah Luoma in a 2-0 win against IMG. For Brighton, the 3-goal weekend was a welcome return to form for the striker, who had scored just once in his last seven games for the U19’s.
The U17’s stretched their winning streak to six in a row with wins over Chargers and IMG. Jackson Conway scored the lone goal from the penalty spot in a 1-0 victory against a tough Chargers side who are right in the thick of the U17 playoff picture. Against IMG, recent academy recruit Tarek Sirdah got his first goal of the year before Conway added another late to secure a 2-0 victory.
Conway’s goal-scoring prowess has been among the best in the nation, as he became the first U17 player in the country to reach 20 goals on the season in DA play, doing so in just 16 appearances. The forward also made it six straight matches with a goal, with an impressive ten tallies in that stretch. On the other end, the U17’s have recorded four consecutive clean sheets to start 2018, with Vincent Florio starting 3 of those 4 matches in goal. Also of note was the academy debut of ATL UTD 2 forward Diego Lopez, who played in both of the weekend’s matches for the U17’s.
The U15’s had a bit tougher of a weekend, with multiple players missing due to injury or suspension. Saturday’s bout with Chargers finished 1-1 with Balmore Cruz-Quinones getting his second goal of the year. Sunday’s game against IMG went 1-0 to the visitors. U14 players Alex Hernandez and Caleb Wiley saw action against IMG, becoming the 7th and 8th players born in 2004 to appear this season for the 2003’s.
Wales Return for U17 Star
There was a somewhat intriguing international call-up for one of Atlanta United’s young talents this week, as 2002 defender Josh Francombe received a call from the Wales U16 national team. Francombe and Wales will be contesting a UEFA Development Tournament in Greece this month, taking on the hosts, Russia and Slovakia during the competition.
Since joining the club last summer from Georgia United, Francombe has quickly risen to become one of the top players at his age. This is his third call-up to the Welsh national team set-up in just the last few months. He also participated in the 2017 Victory Shield tournament against Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland, where he played both fullback and defensive midfield. With Natneal McDonald moving up to the U19’s, Francombe has locked down a starting role at right back with the U17’s after moving up from the U16 team earlier in the season.
With the U17 World Cup coming in 2019, Francombe has a real chance to play a big role in the Welsh national team over the next year as they aim to qualify through UEFA. He’s also eligible to represent the United States, and it’s possible that U17 coach John Hackworth brings him in for a look as well. Regardless, 2018 looks to be a big year for Francombe, and fans should be paying attention to this rising young star.
Local Clash of Unbeatens
While the academy’s older teams have fully returned to the swing of things in 2018, the younger teams have yet to get going on their Spring schedule. That changes this Saturday when the U12’s, U13’s and U14’s host Southern Soccer Academy at the training ground.
Geographically speaking, SSA is one of the closest clubs to Atlanta United in the South Atlantic Division, playing their home games in Austell, GA. While it’s a pretty big waste of time to look at results of games at these ages (and something we’ve discouraged here in the past), it’s worth noting that SSA had a particularly strong fall season, including their U13’s going unbeaten in region play and drawing against a talented New York Red Bulls side at the Fall Showcase.
So, while the results of these matches will mean practically nothing, there should be some good talent on display on both sides of the ball Saturday. With the first team, reserves and academy all revving up into gear, be sure to keep a close eye to DSS and social media for everything concerning Atlanta United’s youngsters.