It is always exciting to see a Georgia-based player find success in a major sports league. While Indiana Vassilev isn’t from Atlanta, the Savannah-born rising star’s new 2-year contract extension with Aston Villa can make any Georgian (or Southerner) proud.
The 19-year old American striker has earned the trust of his club and even though Villa are threatened with relegation back to the Championship, Vassilev is in a good position to fuel their attempt to return to the big stage with his new contract set to expire in June 2022.
“It was really a no-brainer,” Vassilev said in a club video. “This past year they’ve supported me a lot, and thankfully I was able to break my way into the first team. Since I’ve broken my way into the first team, I’ve received a lot of support from everyone, staff and players included.”
Vassilev’s career began with Statesboro’s Tormenta FC Academy from 2013-2015 when he switched to IMG Academy in Florida. There, he gained the interest of the US U-17s and in 2016 was first scouted by Aston Villa. Due to his family’s Bulgarian heritage, Vassilev was able to make the jump overseas ahead of his 18th birthday, so in 2018 he signed his first professional contract with Aston Villa. He spent the next two years developing his craft and competing in Aston Villa’s youth sides up to the U-23s before finally impressing at the first team level.
Birmingham Live describes him as brilliantly left-footed attacker capable of fluidly moving through the midfield and advanced positions of sides that play free-flowing football. His physical development in IMG’s weight room gave him an advantage for his age so has been able to hold his own in the professional ranks where veterans tend to bully younger players who haven’t filled out yet.
“On the field, you know he’s out there, he’s a leader, people follow him,” said Rusty Scarborough, IMG Academy. “The technical aspect he’s developed at a young age so now he’s phenomenal on the ball, passing, dribbling, shooting, heading, receiving.
“When he starts growing and maturing as an athlete, a person, he will continue to grow as a player and figure out where he’s going to find himself.”
In January, Vassilev graduated from Aston Villa’s U-23s to the first team with his debut against Fulham in the FA Cup. He has since appeared in 3 other matches. If he can continue to make appearances for the first team regardless of whether they remain up in the EPL or are relegated, he has a real shot to compete for one of the backup striker spots on the USMNT roster. Vassilev featured for the US’s U-17s at the 2017 U-17 World Cup alongside Justin Garces (GK), Andrew Carleton (M), and Chris Goslin (M). His experience on that team, along with the U-20s, could very well be on the Olympic U-23 roster next summer in Tokyo. He seems to have every intention of continuing to represent the Red, White, and Blue as he recently declined a call-up to the Bulgarian U-21’s.
Kevin Hartman, Vassilev’s coach at IMG had this to say:
“He understands what’s going on around him and it allows him to not only be better himself, but it makes the players around him better.
“He’s got great leadership qualities and he’s got an undying desire to win every time he plays. That competitiveness is an attribute that I think every coach is going to be looking for and it really drives development.
“His future is boundless. He has all the physical capabilities of a top level player. The attributes and the characteristics that he has within are the ones that will drive his development. I don’t see a limit to what he can achieve.”
Indiana Vassilev’s story shows us that there it talent to be found throughout the state of Georgia and the Southeast of the United States. We just have to find it. Good luck to Indiana. I’m sure he will make Georgia proud.