This week we take a look at Atlanta United’s alumni competing in the Fall season who were part of the academy classes of 2017 and 2018. Like we discussed last week, only the ACC, Sun Belt, and a handful of independent teams decided to compete, so we will not be discussing Josiah Blanton (James Madison), Josh Francombe (Elon), Mbongeni Kanyane (Dayton), Daniel Mangarov (UNC Greensboro), Tavon Mussenden (Florida International), Anthony Reaves (Cornell), Ryan Schewe (Georgetown), Remi Smith (Air Force), Trace Umstead (Elon), or Michael Wilkerson (University of San Diego) since they have yet to compete in their seasons. Brandon Clagette (Pitt), Miguel Ramirez (Duke), Alex Bahr (Georgia State), and Sai Brown (Georgia Southern) did not feature for their teams this fall so we will also wait to talk about them. And Brant Zulauf only played one exhibition match for Mercer University against the University of South Carolina so we will hold off on discussing him until after his spring season.
This class is larger than the previous two classes, and that trend will continue going forward as Atlanta United graduates more players from its academy. There are several intriguing names to watch in this young group of players, several of whom are already filling important roles for their college teams.
CB - Wake Forest
Like last week, we start our list with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Garrison Tubbs may be a familiar player for followers of Atlanta United 2. Tubbs was a defensive mainstay of the 2’s for his final two seasons with the Atlanta United academy before committing to attend Wake Forest University. His successful experience with the 2’s earned Tubbs a winter window trial with Aberdeen FC earlier this year alongside teammates Marzuq Puckerin and Jordan Matthews.
Tubbs’ experience with Aberdeen and against professionals in the USL made him a more polished player for his new coach. Wake Forest’s Coach Muuss saw Tubbs as a project defender with a lot of potential:
“I can’t wait to get Garrison to Wake Forest and begin to work with him. Garrison is a player that our staff was excited about the moment they saw him play. He brings an athletic quality to the game that you cannot teach and his ambition to succeed at the highest levels in the classroom make him a natural fit for Wake Forest. Garrison continues to impress me each time I see him with his progress in developing his technical and tactical understanding of the game.”
When injury struck during the preseason, Tubbs was ready to step in to immediately fill the massive void left by senior Michael DeShields. Tubbs started eight matches in his freshman season, helping to hold opponents to just five goals over those eight matches.
A possible highlight of the season for Tubbs came against Pittsburgh when Atlanta United teammate Omar Hernandez delivered a beautiful back post free-kick for Tubbs to bury. This was the second goal for Tubbs on the season and the first in conference play.
Unfortunately, his season was cut short in the most 2020 way when he was sidelined under COVID precautions. Tubbs released a short video through the team’s Twitter account to discuss his experience with the virus and to ask fans to learn from his experience so that they may avoid contracting the virus.
Remember the 3 W's and follow the guidelines to stay safe, Deacon Nation.— Wake Men's Soccer (@WakeMSoccer) November 20, 2020
We're glad to hear you're starting to feel better, Garrison, and can't wait to see you again soon. pic.twitter.com/jbSwLchRGT
Tubbs may not have been the only player who went through this since several of his teammates who were essential players this season were also missing from the team’s playoff loss. That said, Tubbs will bounce back and will be vital to the success of this team in the fall and in the national tournament in May.
Tubbs finished his first college season as one of the top freshmen in the country. In a recap of top freshmen players, Top Drawer Soccer praised the young defender saying, “The 6-foot-3 defender is plenty capable of competing physically, and he’s improving on a game-by-game basis during the fall season.” While with Atlanta United, Tubbs gave academy staff plenty to consider when looking at his future and after a solid first season, Tubbs may be giving the font office plenty to think about as they keep tabs on their young players.
AM - Wake Forest
Chase Oliver joined the growing Atlanta United community in Winston Salem. Ahead of the season, Wake Forest’s coach Muuss brimmed with excitement when discussing his new midfielder:
“Chase is a versatile attacking player who can fit into several different positions in our system. He’s an exciting player who enjoys taking players on, creates chances with his work rate, and always puts himself and others in good positions to create scoring opportunities. Chase is a competitive young man on and off the field, which I am ecstatic to have coming in this fall.”
Luckily for his coach and fans, he gave them plenty to remain excited about in his limited early appearances, including a brace against Pitt.
80' | A brace for the freshman and we're back in front!— Wake Men's Soccer (@WakeMSoccer) September 14, 2020
Chase Oliver scores his second goal of the match as we take back the lead with just a few minutes left in the second half.
Wake 3 | Pitt 2 #GoDeacs pic.twitter.com/Ou2AhV4rFt
Chase is still young and has room to develop but he is in absolutely the best place possible to continue that development. Look for big things to come for this talented attacker in the spring and in his second season.
LM/RM - South Carolina Gamecocks
Jordan Matthews began his career at the University of South Carolina under the tutelage of longtime head coach Mark Berson. It is not clear how much longer Coach Berson will lead the Gamecocks men’s soccer program following this season but Matthews is following in the footsteps of players like Brad Guzan and Josh Wolff. For now, Matthews can try to make the most of his opportunity. Jordan was one of the three prospects who attended a two-week training stint last winter with our development partner Aberdeen FC.
During the Gamecocks’ exhibition this fall, Matthews played sparingly, starting one match against Belmont Academy, averaging less than one half of play in each of his four matches. Though Matthews played in the fullback and wingback positions for Atlanta United, Coach Berson has shifted him up the field into the wide midfield positions to take advantage of his speed and athleticism. While Matthews could still fill a wingback role if needed, it seems that his immediate future will be more attack-minded.
That completes our list of Freshmen and our weekly series recapping the Fall college season for 5-Stripes alumni. Let us know who you are most excited to see and check back in February for the resumption of college athletics and the beginning of the college season for many more players.