This past week brought the Five Stripes their first ever win over DC United, but they weren’t the club’s only team to get some revenge against a rival. In this week’s recap, we break down the academy’s weekend results, look at some upcoming tournaments, and preview this weekend’s local academy derby.
Unbeaten in the Sunshine State
Atlanta United’s academy spent the last weekend down in Florida, first in Boca Raton to take on Boca United, then moving onto Montverde to play their regional MLS rivals Orlando City. For the U15’s, U17’s and U19’s, these opponents had already provided some good competition and tough games this season, and this time around was no different.
The U19’s had the most comfortable weekend of the three sides with a pair of victories. On Saturday against Boca United, things were level until midway through the first half, when Chad Letts struck twice to bring his season goal total to 11. James Brighton added another just before halftime, and despite a late red card, the squad held on for a 3-0 win. Sunday’s game against Orlando saw the U19’s jump out to an early 2-0 lead behind goals from Alessandro Castro and Rayshaun McGann. Orlando would get one back late, but Atlanta would take a 2-1 victory, reversing the scoreline from October’s match in Marietta.
Jackson Conway returned to the score sheet on Saturday against Boca with an early goal as the U17’s avenged an early-season loss to the Boca Raton-based club with a 2-1 win. Fullback Natneal McDonald added another goal from the penalty spot for the U17’s, his 11th of the season. Against Orlando, United went 2-0 down early, but a Conway goal just before halftime reduced the deficit to one at the break. Conway found an equalizer after 75 minutes before ATL UTD 2 striker Diego Lopez scored the winner, his first goal for the club at any level. United’s U17’s have now beaten Orlando three times this season with two of those games being comebacks from a two-goal deficit.
The U15’s got a 1-0 win over Boca with a goal from Jose Sanchez off the bench. Sanchez started and scored again against Orlando, with other goals coming from Betwel Mateyo and Alejandro De Villena in a back and forth 3-3 draw. The U15’s, missing a trio of stars due to national team call-ups, got strong contributions over the weekend from three 2004’s, including goalkeeper Dagoberto Romero, U15 national team defender Bryan Casanova, and midfielder Efrain Morales.
Dallas Cup, GA Cup Opponents Announced
In less than 2 weeks, Atlanta United’s two oldest academy teams will take part in probably the two most prestigious youth tournaments in the United States. The club’s U19 team will be playing in the Dallas Cup Gordon Jago Super Group, and the U17’s will be in the MLS-sponsored Generation adidas Cup. Both tournaments announced their draws this week, which see the young Five Stripes matched up against some of the world’s best academies.
The Dallas Cup is an annual elite tournament which boasts an incredible history and reputation in the soccer world, as well as a laundry list of legendary players to have played in it. In just the past year, Dallas Cup alums amassed over $120 million in transfer fees, which gives you an idea of how “elite” this competition really is. Atlanta United are participating in the Super Group for the first time, and have been drawn into Group B in the 12-team bracket. Joining them in group play will be last year’s runner-up CF Monterrey, Brazilian Serie A club EC Vitoria, and Spanish side Real Oviedo. Schedules and potential streaming info will be available soon, so stay tuned for that.
At the same time in nearby Frisco, Texas, Atlanta United’s U17’s will be playing in the Generation adidas Cup finals. This group has been qualifying for this competition throughout the year, and after winning the East Region qualifying tournament, they have been placed in the Champions Division. The U17’s will kick off group play on Friday, March 23rd against Ecuadorian club Independiente Del Valle before also taking on Portland Timbers and Brazilian giants Flamengo. As academy director Tony Annan has stated before, Atlanta United takes these types of match ups very seriously since they present a unique development opportunity against high-level opposition. It will be fun to watch both the U17’s and U19’s test themselves against some of the world’s best academies over the next month.
Local Foes Set to Do Battle
This weekend brings another set of road games for Atlanta United’s academy; however these matches are not too far from home. Saturday, United’s entire academy will take on Concorde Fire at Georgia Soccer Park in East Point, while the U15’s and U17’s will head to Fowler Park in Forsyth County on Sunday to play United Futbol Academy.
When Atlanta United first entered the local youth soccer picture, many predicted that local youth soccer powerhouses like Concorde and UFA would be the clubs that suffered the most. In fact, the exact opposite has happened. Concorde has all three of it’s oldest Development Academy teams in playoff position and is set to give their local MLS rivals a serious challenge once again this weekend. Meanwhile, UFA has had a solid first year in the DA’s older age groups and already has a few wins against Atlanta United this season.
These matches have quickly gained a reputation for being fun to watch, largely because of the familiarity between opponents. A lot of the players on both sides have played with and/or against each other many times over the years and can predict each other’s tendencies with and without the ball. This creates high-level, intense games, and it would be worth your time to go and watch one of them this weekend.