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Atlanta United’s Academy Goes Unbeaten in Local Derby

Plus a handful of YNT call-ups

Douglas Fejer

The third Atlanta youth soccer derby of the season has come and gone, and this round featured as many competitive matches as the last two. In this week’s recap, we go over the results from the weekend, as well as feature three players who are currently representing their country overseas.

Close ones against Concorde

While the first team was in Chicago and the second team in Cincinnati this Saturday, the Atlanta United Academy was also on the road, although much closer to home. The entire academy U12-U19 took the short trip to Georgia Soccer Park in East Point to face Atlanta youth soccer behemoth Concorde Fire.

In the U19 match, Chad Letts gave a different-looking United side the early lead in the 4th minute. The U19’s would hold that lead without adding to it throughout the full match, but in the dying minutes of the game, Concorde’s Giovanni Rios Hernandez beat keeper Sai Brown to earn a 1-1 draw for the home side. With both Justin Garces and Russell Shealy unavailable for the U19’s this weekend, Brown made his 3rd start of the season in net.

The U17’s began with similar fireworks, with Victor Delgado giving United the lead from the spot early before being answered by Concorde midfielder John Torres. Diego Lopez and Matthew Rios gave United a 3-1 lead before halftime, but goals from Leo Bueno and Justin Guest earned a point for Concorde in a 3-3 draw. The U15’s got a 1-0 win, with the strong work of keeper Vicente Reyes and center backs Andrew Durkin and Owen Barber helping to preserve the clean sheet. In the younger age groups, the U14’s drew 3-3, getting goals from Justin McLean, Mateo Bargagna, and Alan Carleton while surrendering a hat-trick to Concorde striker Matthew Taylor. The U13’s won 5-0, while the U12’s won both their matches 3-2 and 7-0.

There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about the future of independent youth clubs in the highest levels of competition in the United States, with clubs like Concorde Fire specifically in the spotlight. Youth leagues seem to be continuously be popping up and reorganizing, and things like pay-to-play, lack of training compensation, and increasing travel costs are coming under increasing scrutiny. Despite all of that, the on-field competition seems to be at as high a level as ever, even between an MLS academy and a local youth club. We’ll definitely be looking forward to many meetings to come between Atlanta United and Concorde Fire.

U19 trio off to Slovakia

We mentioned that the U19’s were a much-changed side against Concorde this weekend, and that was largely due to the absence of three of their most important players. The group of Charlie Asensio, Justin Garces, and Rayshaun McGann are all currently apart of the US U19 national team for the Slovakia Cup. The Americans won their first group match of the tournament 8-0 against Kazakhstan yesterday and will conclude the group stage against Ukraine and Czech Republic.

This age group of the US youth national team program is always an interesting one for a few reasons. Currently, most of the players on this roster are about to enter their freshman seasons in the NCAA, including Clemson-commit Asensio and UCLA-bound Garces. College soccer is very different to academy soccer, and past evidence shows that some freshmen flourish in that environment and others get a bit lost in the system. Both Asensio and Garces will be entering very high-level programs with deep, talented rosters, but they obviously have plenty of talent and high-level experience of their own. This call-up is another feather in their caps before they take that next step.

FIFA does not have official competitions for U19 teams, but there is a World Cup coming for the U20’s in just over a year. All of the players in this team are eligible for that World Cup, and they’ll be looking to impress in this camp to earn their place in Tab Ramos’ U20 YNT player pool. Atlanta United’s own Lagos Kunga earned his first U19 call-up just months before the 2017 U20 World Cup, which ultimately led to him making the World Cup team and scoring in the tournament. The players in this U19 team are potentially on the verge of a big leap in their young careers, so keep a close eye on which ones can make that leap over the next year.

Season-deciding showdown in Cary

This upcoming weekend will conclude the Development Academy regular season for the three oldest teams in Atlanta United’s academy, as the U13’s through U19’s travel to North Carolina once again. Saturday’s matches will be against North Carolina FC, while Sunday’s opponent will be North Carolina Fusion.

The match that will be in particular focus this weekend will be the U19’s bout against NCFC on Saturday. With two games to go in the DA regular season, North Carolina FC’s U19’s currently sit atop the Southeast Division on 59 points, and Atlanta United are in second with 58. Neither side has lost in 2018, which includes their meeting against each other in March, a wild game which saw NCFC take a 4-1 lead in the second half only for Atlanta to come roaring back to draw 4-4. Both of these teams are really strong, and with a division title on the line, expect Saturday’s meeting to be full of fireworks. Be sure to follow along with all of this weekend’s action both here and on social media.