Atlanta United’s youth academy are about to challenge themselves against some of the best from around the world, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be challenged by teams from right here in the Atlanta area. In this week’s recap, we take a look at the weekend’s results, and get you set for both of the academy tournaments beginning this week.
Strong Test from Local Clubs
This past weekend, Atlanta United’s academy took on Atlanta’s two other major Development Academy clubs. On Saturday, the club’s entire academy, U12’s up through U19’s, played agaisnt Concorde Fire at the Georgia Soccer Park in East Point.
The U19’s took the lead twice against Concorde, first through James Brighton and then Blake White, but were pegged back each time by Concorde’s Coastal Carolina-committed striker Langston Blackstock. The U17’s were stifled by Concorde in a 0-0 draw, and the U15’s also drew 1-1 with a goal from Balmore Cruz-Quinones. The U14 and U13 matches were split, with United’s 13’s getting a brace from Ty Wilson in a 2-1 win and Concorde’s 14’s coming out on top 1-0. After last fall’s meeting between the two clubs, which saw United win in every age group, Saturday’s results showed how far the independent youth club has come in the past six months.
Sunday, Atlanta’s U15’s and U17’s were at Fowler Park in Cumming to take on another of the city’s youth soccer giants, United Futbol Academy. The U15 match featured few clear-cut chances in a 0-0 draw. The Five Stripes were able to reintroduce recent national team call-ups Joseph Collins and Kobey Stoup into the lineup, as well as hand starts to a trio of 2004’s: Dagoberto Romero, Bryan Casanova, and Efrain Morales. In the U17 game, Atlanta dominated the first half but were unable to break through before conceding against the run of play at the end of the half. Down 1-0, United found the equalizer through substitute Wasswa Robbins, but UFA’s Simon Carlson scored within a minute to give the home side the lead once again. A spectacular 20 yard half-volley by U16 regular Kijana Banks, making just his 3rd appearance for the U17’s, drew Atlanta level once again, but they were unable to find the winner in a 2-2 draw.
It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from a small sample size of one weekend, but there is one thing that we can pull from the results of this most recent round of ATL academy derby matches: the pool of young talent in the Atlanta area is incredibly deep, as is the pool of coaching talent. None of that is really news, and of course that talent depth is not limited to just Development Academy clubs. Still, in a day and age where it seems the best youth teams are traveling farther than ever to get proper competition, it’s refreshing to see that a club with as much talent and resources as Atlanta United can be seriously challenged in their own backyard.
All Eyes on the Lone Star State
For many of the club’s most promising youngsters, this next week-and-a-half provides a real opportunity to showcase themselves on a big stage against the best of the best. Beginning Friday, the U17’s will be playing in the Generation adidas Cup Champions Division in Frisco, Texas, while the U19’s will kick off the Dallas Cup Gordon Jago Super Group on Sunday in Dallas.
The U17’s will be in a group along with Ecuadorian side Independiente Del Valle, Portland Timbers, and Brazil’s Flamengo. This team will look very different to the U17’s that played this weekend in the Development Academy. Homegrown player George Bello will likely be back in the lineup at left back, as will the electric winger Deedson Vixamar, who spent the last few weeks training and playing preseason with ATL UTD 2. Throughout qualifying, the defense of Bello, Kendall Edwards, George Campbell and Natneal McDonald were very stout, and they will be put to the test in this competition. Defensive midfielder Takuma Suzuki has missed the last few games after suffering an ankle injury a few weeks ago, but there’s a good chance the U17’s chief midfield distributor will be ready for Friday’s opening match.
Meanwhile, the U19’s will be up against Spanish club Real Oviedo, Brazil’s EC Vitoria, and Mexico’s CF Monterrey. This team also possesses plenty of talent, particularly in midfield, where we could see any combination of Dylan Gaither, Alessandro Castro, Victor Pereyra-Zavala, Blake White and Kashay Sahlu. Up top, the trio of Chad Letts, James Brighton and Dawson Gideon have combined for 36 goals in the DA this season, and they’ll be relied upon to provide the attacking spark in Dallas. There are questions in the back with depth, and it’s possible the aforementioned Bello or McDonald may be pulled up from the U17’s to join Rayshaun McGann, Will Crain and Charlie Asensio in front of keeper Justin Garces.
In both tournaments, there are also the prospects of mouth-watering match-ups after the group stage. The likes of Real Madrid, River Plate and AS Monaco are also participating in the GA Cup, while Manchester United, Tigres UANL, and Arsenal head up a similarly-stacked field in the Dallas Cup. Regardless of who’s playing in which tournament and who they come up against, this will be an incredible experience for the academy’s players. Make sure you’re following along with all the action from Dallas this weekend and next week.