Guessing the Next Academy Player Debuts

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


Hello 5-Stripes community.

Yesterday on Reddit, Tony Annan hosted an AMA session for fans through the Atlanta United subreddit. While many of the questions focused on scouting and the future of youth soccer in the area after the end of the DA, a few persistent fans tried to badger our Academy Director into spilling the beans on who the team is watching most closely.

While he refused to say any names, he replied several times that there are a few talented youngsters that they are keeping an especially close eye on. Based on how he replied, I doubt the team has even told these players about this since he wants every player to believe they can make it and wants to keep that hunger and work ethic up.

I like the guys to all think they have a chance and stay grounded... we have a few very talented guys coming through

He also talked about how "success" to him can involve a great deal of avenues to staying in the game for a prolonged period whether that is from college to the pros or directly to a professional career.

I feel all avenues are a success for the players if they continue to play after the academy. Especially if they move on to play professionally.

With a growing class of players committed to the college ranks and the first class of rising college seniors from the academy beginning to think about their futures after the conclusion of their college career, it is certainly interesting to see our Academy Director encouraging players to take whatever direction is best for them in their careers.

But back to what we are likely all here for. When asked about players making debuts, he had this to offer.

Can’t say who.. but feel we have 1 or 2 guys who could make their debut for A2 soon, and maybe 1 for the 1st team before the end of the season...

So, who could these players be?

We've already seen our USL team produce a few 1st team debuts in our abbreviated season with Phillip Goodrum and Lawrence Wyke getting 4-day contracts and Wyke getting a full promotion and a starting debut. Campbell has also made his debut as the latest homegrown player to crack the 1st team.

Let's take a look at some of our exceptional players and consider who among them may be ready to make the jump. College commitments do not eliminate the possibility of a player going pro, as seen with George Campbell who was preparing to start his collegiate career at the University of Maryland when Atlanta United gave him the 7th homegrown contract in club history. Also, debuts for Atlanta United 2 do not necessarily mean the player is a full pro as many have gone on to join the collegiate ranks following time spent playing for the 2's.

Atlanta United 2 Debuts

This season, academy product Jackson Conway continued his professional career with the 2's while former teammate and academy graduate Ale Castro sought opportunities overseas. Current Academy players: Coleman Gannon, Will Reilly, Vincente Reyes, Garrison Tubbs, and Tyler Wolff have seen time in the shortened USL Championship season. Vincente Reyes and Tyler Wolff both made their debuts this year.

Other U-19s: Brandon Clagette, Diego Lopez, and Jordan Matthews played for the 2's last season and probably had a chance to make other cameos for the team this year if the season had not been interrupted.

To try to figure out who may be making a debut if the season ever resumes, let's look at who the team has been getting special training opportunities for in the preseason, and which U-19s have yet to make their debut and are committed to high profile collegiate programs.

Efrain Morales - Defender

Efrain Morales

Efrain Morales got the rare opportunity that most young players could only dream of when he got to go on trial with Manchester United this past winter. Though there were no plans for him to be sold, the Red Devils have taken an interest in the U-16/17 defender who has shown poise and athleticism beyond his age and could become a real star if things fall into place. Morales is on the radar of the US National Team with his first call-up in 2018 with the U-15 BNT and will likely get more looks if as a 16-year old he starts playing for the 2's. With Garrison Tubbs probably heading to Wake Forest in the fall and Lawrence Wyke and George Campbell potentially seeing more time with the first team if there is a compressed schedule to finish the 2020 season, there will be an opening in the backline that he might be able to step in and fill.

Marzuq Puckerin - Goalkeeper


Marzuq Puckerin is a big and athletic goalkeeper. Puckerin was part of the trio of Atlanta United academy players that were part of the Aberdeen exchange program where our academy players get to go train with our partner organization in the SPL. He only recently joined the academy from the Boston Bolts Development Academy program but has made a real impact and has already seen time in the National Team system with the U-17s.

Goalkeeper is a difficult position to crack for any of our academy players since we have a relatively deep pool of players within the academy, in the college ranks, and between the 1st and 2nd teams. Puckerin will have to compete with fellow academy players Vincente Reyes and likely Josue Hangi, 2nd Teamers Ben Lundgaarde and Gabe Rosario, and 1st Teamers Alec Kann and Brendan Moore for playing time.

Andrew Durkin - Defender


I'm a firm believer that Defenders and Goalkeepers are our deepest pools in our academy. Andrew Durkin, younger brother of Sint-Truidense V.V. (formerly of DC United) midfielder Chris Durkin, is a stud for the U-16/17s and has played up a level several times this academy season. While I believe Morales is likely the first defender called up to the 2's, Durkin could be right there behind him.

Atlanta United Debuts

This part is a little bit trickier. Just like in the previous section, we will use the preseason and other bonus opportunities players have earned to try to guess who gets that next Homegrown or MLS Supplemental Roster contract.

It was only a matter of time for Lawrence Wyke to make his move up to MLS and that time came early on the big stage with a rash of injuries dramatically thinning a depleted backline from a brutal offseason. Depth was further hampered with Atlanta United's 1st Round pick in the Superdraft being released in the preseason due to injuries. Both Wyke and Campbell had to fill that void.

Another position that is see as thin is the center forward position. Even though we signed JJ Williams and Adam Jahn to fill the void left by El Rey's injury, we may need another player to add depth to the position and danger in the attack.

The most likely candidate is our very own:

Jackson Conway - Center Forward


Jackson is a big-bodied target forward with a game similar to Brandon Vazquez. He is big and relatively quick for his size. He offers a lot of the same as Jahn though significantly younger with less veteran tricks and less wear on the tires. Jackson has already seen a full season with the 2's and was trusted enough to be brought back for another season. His current contract is specifically with Atlanta United 2 so a new arrangement will need to be made similarly to what they worked out with Wyke.

Josh Wolff - Forward

Tyler Wolff

Tyler Wolff is another young and talented striker who has been getting long looks by the team. Tyler and his brother Owen recently joined the Atlanta United Academy from the Columbus Crew Academy and are both sons of former national team star and current Austin head coach Josh Wolff.

Tyler played for the team in the preseason and caused a stir among this community and the sub-Reddit when a picture from Villalba's Instagram page showed a player most of us had never seen before. While he had a steep learning curve to play against first team players and players with international experience, that kind of training and that kind of trust from the organization shows how talented they believe he is and if they want to avoid losing him to his father's expansion side, they should start dangling a Homegrown contract in front of him.

Will Reilly - Attacking Midfielder


This kid is really, really good. He has been a regular for the 2's since his debut last season and has often been one of the most talented players on the pitch. The game is slowing down for him and his technique is helping him work his way into the conversation to be the 8th Homegrown player for the team or to try his chances in Europe on his 18th birthday. He plays attacking midfield and will continue to grow as he trains with world class players like Pity, Barco, and Rossetto. Keep an eye on him.

So that does it for this educated guessing game on which players may be the next to make their debuts with the first team and sign their professional careers into existence. Which of these players do you find most intriguing and are there any others that you are excited about. Let's talk about it in the comments below.

This is a FanPost written by a member of our blog's community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the feelings or beliefs of the blog itself or the staff.