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Atlanta United academy player Kendall Edwards makes his pro debut

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Plus the results from a weekend of academy matches

Kendall Edwards playing for ATL UTD 2
Atlanta United

Atlanta United’s academy returned home for the first time in a couple of months, taking a big step towards another Southeast Division Championship in the process. In this week’s prospects recap, we go over the results from the weekend, and we take a in-depth look at an academy player who announced himself to the Five Stripe fan base in a big way.

Big Wins against Strong Teams

Atlanta United’s U15’s, 17’s and 19’s made their return to action in the Development Academy this weekend, taking on Weston FC and Kendall SC from the Miami area. After the learning experience that was the Dallas Cup and Generation adidas Cup, both of the older squads were keen to return to their winning ways.

The U19’s did so, winning 3-0 on Saturday against Weston and 5-1 Sunday vs. Kendall. The Southeast Division-leading Atlanta side took a lead near the stroke of half-time against 2nd place Weston through Dawson Gideon; a 2nd-half brace from Blake White sealed the three points. Sunday saw Kendall jump out to a 1-0 lead before James Brighton and White made it 2-1 at the half. A second yellow for Dylan Gaither threatened to derail things, but United responded strongly down a man with a second from Brighton and two goals from Victor Pereyra-Zavala to win 5-1. The U19’s extended their unbeaten streak in the DA to 13 games, with their last loss coming way back in November.

The U17’s were held scoreless in a 0-0 stalemate against Weston on Saturday, a tight contest between the top two teams in the U17 Southeast Division. Despite dropping points on Saturday, the squad responded to beat Kendall 2-0 on Sunday, with early goals from Danny Mangarov and Matthew Rios. It was not a great weekend results-wise for the U15’s with a 2-0 loss against Weston and a 3-1 loss to Kendall.

Edwards Debuts with the 2’s

While the U17’s were playing in Marietta this weekend, their captain Kendall Edwards was not in the squad. That’s because the 17-year old center back was busy preparing to become the first Atlanta United academy player to make his USL debut with ATL UTD 2 while still being an academy player. Edwards went a full 90 minutes in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Penn FC.

For Atlanta fans, it was a first real opportunity to be exposed to Edwards, a large, athletic center back who certainly did not look out of place in a professional game. In his time in the academy, Edwards showed that beyond his athleticism, he’s very composed in possession and very intelligent when it comes to reading the game quickly and responding to opponent’s attacks. Those traits were on display on Saturday in a mostly-good performance, with only a couple of mistakes that the youngster will certainly learn from. The 17-year old recently announced a commitment to NC State for the class of 2019, so we will see what is next for him in the Atlanta United system.

Edwards’ performance is a big step for the player himself, but it’s also significant in a greater context. ATL UTD 2 is lacking in center back depth, and if Miles Robinson gets an extended run for the MLS team, there could be more minutes down the line for Edwards, as well as U19 center backs Rayshaun McGann and Will Crain. Beyond that, it’s good for the rest of the academy players knocking on the door at USL minutes to see someone make that jump and do well. Edwards will now be able to bring that experience back to the whatever academy team he’s on that week, and other players will know that if the right opportunity presents itself, Atlanta United will not hesitate to let them prove themselves at The Proving Ground.

ATL UTD 2 will return to action on April 21st against the defending USL champions Louisville City, a team that has started this season off about as well as it ended the last one. They then follow it up with a midweek home game against Charleston Battery. The U17’s and U19’s are both off that weekend, and with the quick succession of games coming, there should be more opportunities for academy players in USL coming soon.