Atlanta United’s oldest academy sides finished up their Development Academy regular seasons over the weekend, with both the U17’s and U19’s ending on a high note. We’ll tell you about it in this week’s recap, as well as other results and takeaways from a busy weekend of soccer.
Kings of the Southeast
Atlanta United’s U15’s, U17’s and U19’s took their final trip of the season last weekend up to North Carolina to take on North Carolina FC and North Carolina Fusion. Both the 19’s and 17’s entered the weekend in first place in the DA’s Southeast Division with the ability to clinch the Division title with the right results.
The U19’s entered Saturday one point clear of second-place North Carolina FC, and Saturday’s match between the region’s top two sides lived up to it’s billing. Atlanta struck first in the 3rd minute with a goal from Chad Letts. After conceding an equalizer, Dawson Gideon gave United the lead once again before Letts made it 3-1 on the other side of half-time. From there, it looked like smooth sailing for the U19’s, but a late flurry from NCFC saw the home side bag two in the final 10 minutes to earn a 3-3 draw.
With that result, all Atlanta needed to secure the title was a victory against Fusion on Sunday. Midfielder Omar Mustafic gave United the early lead with his second goal of the season in the 18th minute, but Fusion equalized a minute later. The home side could not withstand the Atlanta attack, however, and goals from Gideon and Letts made it 3-1 at full-time, handing United first in the Southeast. With leading scorer James Brighton out of the team at the moment, the form of Letts (goals in each of the team’s last 4 matches) and Gideon (4 goals in his last 6 games) have been crucial for the U19’s, who remain unbeaten in the DA in 2018.
The U17’s came into the weekend with a bigger cushion at the top of the table than their older counterparts, needing just a point to secure the Division title. Saturday’s match against NCFC finished 1-0 to the home side, who are also in firm playoff position in the Southeast. United jumped out to an early lead on Sunday with a goal from Eric Ortiz, but Fusion scored on either side of half-time to take the lead. Needing the result, substitute William Reilly, making just his second appearance of the season for the U17’s, tallied a huge goal in the dying minutes of added time to make it 2-2, clinching the title.
The unlikely heroes story-line was always likely for the U17’s this weekend, with regulars like George Campbell, Liam Butts and Natneal McDonald playing up with the 19’s, Kendall Edwards with ATL UTD 2, and Jackson Conway out with an injury. Players like Reilly, Ortiz, Brandon Clagette and Trace Umstead were asked to play big roles this weekend, and they ultimately came through in the end. Perhaps it’s expected, but this weekend’s results speaks to the depth of talent that already exists at Atlanta United.
Younger Teams Prep for Showcase
While the next challenge for the U19’s and U17’s will be the Development Academy Playoffs in June, the academy’s younger sides still have a lot to look forward to as well. The U15’s also concluded their regular season in North Carolina, losing 3-1 to NCFC and drawing 1-1 with the Fusion. Saturday’s loss was marked with a goal from U14 midfielder Jose De Avila, while Andrew Durkin scored a penalty in Sunday’s draw.
There may be no playoffs for the U15 age group, but there is an end of the season showcase event on the horizon. This will feature U15 sides from around the country matched up by their recent form and skill level. For the U15 players at the club, it’s a big opportunity to show off their own ability in front of a large audience of scouts and media, but that opportunity is not just for them. Last season, Atlanta United used this event to bring several players up from younger age groups to join their showcase roster, and it looks like they will do something similar this season. Several players from the U14’s have already been getting regular minutes with the U15’s, so expect to see many of them at this event.
Meanwhile, the season for the U14’s and 13’s is not quite over. Each side has four games left on the calendar following blowout victories over the weekend against Georgia club AFC Lightning. With a spot on the showcase roster potentially on the line for several players in both teams, expect to see these kids continue to compete at a high level for the remaining matches on the schedule, starting with this coming weekend’s bouts with local clubs North Atlanta Soccer Association and United Futbol Academy.