For their final home match of the season, Atlanta United 2 started a youth-filled line-up against New York Redbulls II. The starting eleven featured seven academy players and graduates, two second round MLS Superdraft picks, a former NPSL and Community College Player, and Mo Jadama.
Having an Academy Director coaching the Reserve Team seems to be paying off. When asked about his young lineup, Annan heaped praise on his players.
“I’m extremely proud of lads moving through the system and into this reserve team. To be honest, it’s the way it should be. If you give them the chance, they rarely let you down. That’s been proven all of this year against some very good opponents. Our young guys have done exceptional, but it’s the way it should be. It’s the reason that we will produce many Homegrowns in the future. We are not scared to put young players in a situation where it’s a massive challenge for them. Like I said before, they rarely let you down when you show that belief in them. I’m very proud of the lads and the club for what we’ve done this season.”
This spunky and energetic young side wanted to leave the rest of the USL a message as their season drew to a close. The 2’s started fast and pressed the visiting side from the outset.
In the sixteenth minute, Phillip Goodrum, Amir Bashti, and Jackson Conway blitzed the Redbull defense with superb build up play culminating in a beautiful Conway header put the home side up a goal.
Minutes later, the same trio combined for another goal, this time off of the left foot of Amir Bashti.
The 2’s looked like they were going to run away with it but the old spectre of blown leads came back to haunt the young team. By the 28th minute, the score was even 2-2.
But the Redbull rally was short-lived as Phillip Goodrum added his name to the scoresheet.
Remarkably, all five goals were scored before the first hydration break of the half. Considering the wind sprints these two teams ran up and down the field, that Gatorade was well-earned.
Atlanta United 2 could have settled on three goals, but Conway got greedy to nab a brace before the half.
An exciting and sloppy first half came to a close with Atlanta United 2 feeling pretty good about themselves. They had given away the ball in some dangerous areas a few times, made some bad youthful mistakes, and had left themselves open to counter, but their tenacity, ball movement, and athleticism proved to be the difference as they simply out-worked and out-played their opponents. Vicente Reyes had a few awkward moments at the back but also came up big with some key saves to keep his team ahead.
The second half began with two subs. David Mejia came on for leftback Matthew Edwards, and Patrick Nielsen rotated with Homegrown centerback Efrain Morales.
The second half lulled us to sleep with a slower back and forth until Mejia did what he does best, poach a goal in a substitute appearance. This kid feeds on rebounds and keeper errors.
Brendan Lambe replaced Jay Fortune in the 72nd minute to make his second professional appearance, Lamin Jawneh came on minutes later for Conway, and Daniel Steedman entered for a late cameo in place of Amir Bashti in the 85th minute.
The match got more and more aggressive as a frustrated New York side tried to fight their way back into the match. The officials did their best to keep a lid on the fiery young players, especially after Mejia nearly came to blows with a Redbull defender.
5 goals ✔️— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) September 24, 2020
3 points ✔️
Strong finish pic.twitter.com/5MOvkPvS46
Overall this is the best match of the season for the 2’s. They imposed their will on the Redbulls, played an aggressive and fast game that thrived on movement and chaos to disrupt their opponent and overwhelm them with speed and numbers. Though the game was frantic and verging on reckless, it worked. This was the kind of all-or-nothing soccer that 5-Stripes Fans have come to enjoy and it made for a far more entertaining match than the measured “Tranquillo” philosophy of the FBD era. If we learn nothing else from this match, it is that we have some incredible athletes in the pipeline and the 2021 preseason camp will be one to watch closely.
Man of the Match tonight is Jackson Conway who capped his 2020 season off in style. He made a compelling argument for a first team contract this winter.
Until then, let’s celebrate a 6-point mid-week night and a spark of hope for a beleaguered fanbase.