While Pity Martinez may be enjoying life under interim manager Stephen Glass more than anyone, George Bello has to be a candidate for the top of that list too. The Atlanta United homegrown player was the subject of much criticism for his defensive lapses in Orlando. Now, under Glass and getting to play in a more structured tactical formation, Bello started to show Saturday in Atlanta’s 2-0 win over Nashville SC why he’s been rated so highly since he was 15 years old.
His performance as a left-back in Glass’s debut match — one of the first times he’s played as a natural full back with the first team — was a great success. The 18-year-old drew rave reviews for his impressive 90-minute shift from his head coach and a fellow back line mate during Monday’s video press conference.
“He was fantastic on Saturday night,” Glass said. “His work rate to get back after he was supporting the team to go forward, the timing of his runs, the aggression of his runs. His final ball can still get slightly better but the more he gets into those positions he’s going to continue to improve.
“I think the understanding of the position was there for everyone to see. He was pretty aggressive defensively, which is a big thing for George if he’s going to continue to make progress as a full back.”
Anton Walkes played right next to the teenager along the back line Saturday. In addition to having a stellar match himself, the versatile English defender also noticed Bello’s confident play while even offering some wisdom to the youngster.
“I think he did fantastic,” Walkes said. “He’s not playing at the best of his ability yet, which is very good because he has a lot to offer. He can definitely be confident coming off that game he played and look forward to what comes next. I know he’s young, as well. I remember playing at his age with little experience, sometimes you feel lost out there.
“I just made sure to tell him to keep talking, with me especially, because I’m there to cover him and he’s there to cover me. And if he talks, he can stay in the game a lot more and we’re less likely to make mistakes if we’re communicating. Which he did very well. All due credit to him.”
The left-back position has been a weak spot for the Five Stripes since Greg Garza departed after the cup-winning season in 2018. The vision of everyone around the club has been for Bello to take the reins at that spot for some time now. However, due to injuries and other factors, it just hasn’t happened that way. Now with Glass in charge and having coached Bello plenty with ATL UTD 2, the position seems to be his to lose. If we see more performances like the one against Nashville, there shouldn’t be much danger of that happening.