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Atlanta United Academy players featuring prominently across the country

Rounding up the debuts and strong performances in MLS and USL

Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies

Our first day back for our beloved Atlanta United and Atlanta United 2 ended in two disappointing losses. After months of waiting and hoping, the joy of the Five Stripes returning to our viewing screens quickly disappeared with Florian Valot’s fourth minute goal in Orlando. 90 miles away in St. Petersburg, things were not starting too smoothly for Atlanta United 2 either. In the fifth minute Atlanta United 2 tried to play it out of the back against a high press and a dangerous pass from goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard to midfielder Amir Bashti was intercepted at the top of the box. Bashti dragged his opponent down and was awarded a red card in the 7th minute for his troubles. Early in both matches, things did not look good.

Atlanta United 2 were playing with a very young lineup and bench. Academy regulars Garrison Tubbs (CB), Coleman Gannon (LW), and Will Reilly (CM) started the match alongside USL debutants Caleb Wiley (LB) and Matthew Edwards (DM). On the bench were academy players Vincente Reyes (GK), David Mejia (M), and Ajani Fourtune (M).

The wily old veteran of the group was 18-year old academy graduate Jackson Conway who took advantage of a turnover forced by Coleman Gannon in the Rowdies’ defensive half to put his 10-man Atlanta United 2 side up with a sensational golazo.

Meanwhile, back in Orlando, George Bello nearly scored a golazo of his own. Bello was one of the bright spots of the match with several threatening runs. He made some positive adjustments after being caught up the field a few times in the first half, a weakness that Tony Annan and the training staff continue to work on with him. Once De Boer made the switch to feeding the flanks through long balls, Bello took off and had a game that a young player can build on.

It is challenging to fully assess the quality of the Atlanta United 2 side since they had to play a man down for almost the entirety of the match. It is admirable that they were able to hang on to their lead until the 61st minute. But they had to settle for a 2-1 loss with only some valuable minutes for their young players to show for it. Both goals for Tampa came from breakdowns on the left side of the box from bad marking by Jack Gurr and Abdoulaye Diop who had subbed on for Caleb Wiley in the second half. Ajani Fortune made his USL debut in the 69th minute when he subbed on for Matthew Edwards and had a fairly quiet debut with only seven touches.

On loan with the Indy Eleven, Andrew Carleton continues to resurrect his career with a strong start as Indy’s #10. He looks fast and dangerous out there and served a beautiful long assist to his teammate in the 51st minute for the opening goal of the contest. If this pass is any indication of Andrew’s future, he will be a welcomed addition back into our midfield.

On loan with Phoenix Rising, Lagos Kunga subbed on in the 69th minute in an absolute thrashing of LA Galaxy II. Lagos had a very quiet outing for Phoenix but with the victory in hand, he didn’t need to offer a lot to help his team to a victory. Phoenix is one of the most potent attacking teams in the USL so it is encouraging to see Lagos getting minutes for them on the wing.

Next week, Atlanta United will look to right the ship against Cincinnati on Thursday, Atlanta United 2 will travel to back home to face Memphis on Saturday, Andrew Carleton will take on SKC II, and Lagos Kunga will face former academy teammate Diego Lopez and Orange County SC.

Best of luck to the lads.