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2021 NCAA College Soccer Preview: Tracking Every Atlanta United Alumnus

A look ahead at the college season for Atlanta United’s Academy alumni

2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Welcome back, everyone. It is August again, so that means it is the start of a massive amount of academy-related news. To start, let’s check in with our diaspora of former academy players populating the college game.

You may recognize quite a few of these players from Atlanta United 2, Homegrown Player predictions, or previous previews and recaps of collegiate athletics. They are (mostly) all here and they are ready to resume (somewhat) normal playing conditions after what proved to be a highly tumultuous college season. This year, most (if not all) programs seem set to play both Fall and Spring seasons in pursuit of the ultimate prize of an NCAA championship.

Just a few months ago, Atlanta United graduated their first class of collegiate seniors with Machop Chol and Bryce Washington returning to the club on Homegrown Player contracts. Washington has already proven to be an intriguing future option for Atlanta United’s defensive depth with his ability to play as both a central defender and as a right-back. Chol has had a more challenging first professional season but has gained valuable learning experience that will make him a better player in the long run.

The Seniors

This year’s class of seniors is larger than the last and has a few players who could earn Homegrown contracts with Atlanta United. A few more could have a future in the USL Championship or be the first ever academy graduate selected in the MLS Superdraft. The club saw their first former academy player enter the draft last season and could see a few more this year.

Charlie Asensio - LB Clemson
David Platt

At the top of this Senior class is Clemson’s trust left-back, Charlie Asensio. If you have been following our NCAA recaps and Homegrown signing predictions, you should already be familiar with him. Asensio enters his senior season this fall as a 4-year starter for the Clemson defense and has remained a quiet but constant presence for the team on and off of the field. He has a championship pedigree, racking up accolades with the Clemson Tigers and the Atlanta United academy. He is a leader for his team, an intelligent and technical player who can read the game at a high level, and a fullback who possesses an advanced positional sixth sense that helps him manage the left flank. He is not the flashiest or shiftiest player at his position but brings a lot of intangibles and intuition to the position that will help him adjust to the professional game.

Justin Garces - GK UCLA

If you are looking for a talented player with a lot to prove and a desperate need to be on a better team, look no further than UCLA’s goalkeeper, Justin Garces. Garces’ addition to the academy was a huge coup for Tony Annan. Garces was a United States youth international goalkeeper with the U-17s and met with a lot of suitors before choosing to move to Atlanta from Miami. Garces played extensively for the United States’s youth program alongside Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin with the U-17s, and more recently, Garces with the U-20s and the U-19s following his sole youth World Cup experience with the U-17s in India. UCLA has been dreadful during Garces’s three years with the program and that is of no fault of his own. Garces has faced a high volume of shots and racked up 125 saves across nearly 3900 minutes, allowing only 73 goals. His heroism has held his team’s defense together and kept UCLA alive in games that should have been even more lopsided. He has the experience, humility, and toughness to succeed at the next level, so Atlanta may be very tempted to give him that chance.

Will Crain (Brown) was voted team captain by his teammates ahead of his senior season. “While he was sidelined and recovering from surgery during the 2019 season, Will demonstrated great leadership from a difficult position,” Coach Patrick Laughlin said. “He has been at the forefront of our team as we have navigated all the twists and turns caused by the pandemic.” Crain has not played much during college due to his injury-shortened Sophomore season and the pandemic canceling his Junior season so he will need to answer a lot of questions in his final year of college eligibility. As a former captain for Atlanta United’s academy teams from 2016-2018, Crain has the competitive drive to get back out there if he gets the chance. He was one of the first two academy players chosen to play for the 2s, after all.

AJ Henderson / Georgia Southern

Like Justin Garces, Aldair Cortes desperately needed a new home. With Georgia Southern going nowhere, Cortes transferred to High Point University. High Point is an ascendant small-school program led by Coach Zach Haines. When it was announced Cortes was joining his program, Haines heaped praise on Cortes, saying, “He has produced wherever he plays, and will give us another great option in our attack. His ability on restarts is extremely high level, as well as his finishing in and around the box. We are excited to get to work with Aldair in August.” Cortes has experience as a fullback, central and holding midfielder, and most recently as a wing for the USL League Two side Lionsbridge FC. Cortes is one to watch and could return to the 2s if he is not selected in the draft.

Our final two seniors stayed in Atlanta to pursue their college careers. Defender Clayton Dawes and winger Victor Pereyra-Zavala look to continue GSU’s recent run of success in the Sun Belt Conference and beyond. GSU loves to play with three centerbacks so Dawes will likely line up centrally with sophomore phenom Alex Henderson and senior George Proctor. Pereyra-Zavala likely begins the season as an impact sub off of the bench but may get some starts during the Fall season’s schedule congestion.

The Juniors

This Junior class is strong. In fact, it is probably the deepest group of academy alumni to remain outside of the organization. There are players in every position group who could make a case for a Homegrown contract in 2023. This is the class that will most likely make the first major impact on the Superdraft and in the USL.


Clemson center forward and 2020 team captain James Brighton is probably at the top of this trio of very talented strikers. He is a big man with a big personality. Brighton uses his large and powerful frame to control the game around the opponent’s defensive box, winning jump balls, holding up well, and winning rebounds around the 6-yard box. Following the departures of a deep group of upperclassmen in the 2021 Superdraft, Brighton emerged from his role as a super-sub to take Clemson back to the College Playoffs. Brighton is a Redshirt Junior, meaning that he is a year older than his peers, and should use that added experience to lead this new group of Clemson players in pursuit of another Atlantic Coastal Conference title.

Penn State forward Liam Butts got a lot of attention ahead of the 2021 spring season garnering predictions that he may win college soccer’s top award for scorers. An injury kept him from getting going until late in the year but he carried enough momentum into the offseason to make us all excited to see this talented and hungry striker look to make up for what he will feel was a down year. Butts is a tall and quick forward capable of effectively playing with the ball at his feet and receiving it on the run. He is capable of plenty of heroics and fireworks, using exquisite volleys to earn results for the Nittany Lions. Once again, Butts will enter the season as a player to watch.

Jeremiah Luoma is proof that America’s 4th division has real value in developing players. While at Georgia Southern, Luoma had earned some scant minutes in the Eagles’ midfield but never made much of an impression. That all changed this summer with the NPSL’s most exciting new team Appalachian FC. With the Squatches, Luoma played up top as both a center forward and as a False-9 at times and seemed to come alive. Now with new attacking confidence thanks to his All-Southeast Conference Best Xl Selection, Luoma returns to a college program desperately in need of a spark of inspiration. He brings speed, an improved touch, and now the experience to potentially help turn Georgia Southern’s program around.


Wake Forest’s crafty holding midfielder Takuma Suzuki is one of our favorite players in this pool. He is cool and calm under pressure, offers strong distribution of the ball from the #6 position, and can help control the game by retaining possession and by breaking up opponents’ attempts to move through the midfield. He does almost everything that you would want to see from an Atlanta United-style central midfielder and could offer a compelling option as Santiago Sosa’s back-up in a year or two with a hint of Rossetto and Nagbe for good measure.

Wake Forest’s other exciting young midfielder is Omar Hernandez. Hernandez plays as both a #10 and as an attack-minded #8 in Coach Bobby Muuss’s 4-3-3 set up. He had a coming-out party of sorts in his second season with the Demon Deacons as a strong class of upperclassmen midfielders and other Homegrown prospects departed for the professional game. After the draft opened playing time for Hernandez, he went on a rampage to seal his claim over Wake Forest’s attacking midfield position. With his outstanding play and goalscoring form, he should be an intriguing player to watch in his upcoming Junior campaign. Hernandez played briefly for Atlanta United’s academy while also featuring for Chattanooga. It is not clear whether he is eligible for a Homegrown contract but after the season he has had, it would not be a stretch to think Atlanta’s scouting department is watching him and some of his fellow teammates closely.

Dylan Gaither has emerged as a leader for the Mercer Bears. In just his third year, he brings to bear a wealth of experience at the #10 position from Atlanta United 2, two full years of starting for Mercer, and now a summer with the Georgia Revolution in the NPSL. In many ways, Gaither elevates the level of play around him through his own movements, shooting ability, and ability to move teammates into dangerous positions through the focus opposing defenses have to place on him. Gaither needs to continue improving on his decision-making and his ball retention but he is well on his way to being one of the top players in the Southern Conference.


Luke Mitchell often gets overlooked in favor of his highly touted former Atlanta United 2 and academy teammate Kendall Edwards, but Mitchell has already cemented himself as a top young centerback with Creighton in the Big East Conference. In his sophomore season at Creighton, Mitchell played in 10 matches for Creighton’s defense, starting 9. This came after being one of the few Freshmen in Creighton’s history to play over 1000 minutes in his first season. He continued his impressive rise through Creighton’s defense and should continue to make a major impact for Creighton over his remaining seasons of eligibility. Now entering his third year, Mitchell will anchor a team that narrowly missed its shot at a conference championship and a ticket to the post-season. He is another one of our players who does not often show up on the stat sheet but can consistently be counted on for strong play and for doing the little things that get unnoticed. By the time he graduates in two years, Mitchell could be one of the best defenders in the country.

Kendall Edwards needs to have a big year. After playing a big part in the Atlanta United 2 defense as an academy player, Kendall Edwards has largely fallen off of the map with NC State. It may be injuries or competition at the position or some other factor that we do not know about, but he has yet to get a consistent run of starting minutes for the Wolfpack. Now entering his third season in the program, things have got to change for the talented central defender. Maybe this year is the year that he finally breaks out.

Ousman Jabang had a productive season for Mercer with 9 starts across 10 matches played after appearing in 19 of 21 matches in his freshman season. Jabang offers versatility by playing as both a defender and a midfielder for Mercer and continued to show that in his time this summer with the Georgia Revolution. He has mostly been a role player so far and will look to get more opportunities to cement himself as a fixture in the Mercer rotation this fall.


Atlanta United has highly intriguing collegiate depth at the goalkeeper position. Russell Shealy is one of those college goalkeepers who is giving some fans and members of the organization plenty to be interested in. After falling out of favor at Maryland, Shealy transferred to Syracuse and finally found a place to shine. Shealy finally found some consistency, and with that came better form. The big break may have come with his first career shutout in a scoreless draw against the University of North Carolina. That kind of performance is something to build on. To his credit, Shealy defers a lot of credit for his success to his teammates, often praising their selfless defensive play to stymie opposing attackers. Shealy’s emergence seems to have not gone unnoticed as he became part of a bevy of former academy players headed to the Georgia Revolution (NPSL) for the summer season. He got a few starts for the Revs but the key is that he continues to grow in maturity and confidence heading into a pivotal season for his future.

The Sophomores


Brandon Clagette and the Univeristy of Pittsburgh Panthers hope to build off of the most successful season in the program’s history. The only problem is that most of the players that contributed to that success have graduated or joined the professional game like Clagette’s fellow Atlanta United alumni Bryce Washington. After only appearing in 8 matches last season in mostly brief cameos aside from a rare start against Duquesne, Clagette is looking to win either a starting spot or at least more regular playing time. Like some of his peers, Clagette has a lot of experience playing on the flanks and saw time as both a fullback and wingback with Atlanta United. Fast forward to Pitt and Clagette’s days on the defensive side of the ball seem to be in the past. Head Coach Jay Vidovich sees Clagettes as a purely offensive threat from a wide forward spot and that may be where he remains for the next three years of his eligibility in the program.

Another young forward looking for more minutes in his second season is the University of San Diego’s Michael Wilkerson. Wilkerson originally joined Atlanta United from the Asheville, North Carolina area and featured as a back-up center forward for his academy teams. With San Diego, Wilkerson continues to sparingly see the pitch, but managed a goal in 47 minutes of play between two matches last season. That’s a pretty good goal/90 but Wilkerson is more focuses on his development instead of on stats. This summer, Wilkerson joined his home town Asheville City SC in the USL League Two and seemed to gain some valuable experience and confidence in front of his hometown crowd. Wilkerson seems set to take a leap forward in his second campaign.

Miguel Ramirez also had a quiet freshman season at Duke. After appearing in just two matches in the fall, he went on to feature in another seven matches in the spring on his way to 201 minutes of valuable experience. His most impressive match came against Pittsburgh as he scored his first goal and tallied the first assist of his collegiate career against one of the best teams in college soccer. Like many of his fellow former teammates, Miguel Ramirez joined a 4th division side to prepare to win more minutes in the 2021 season. In Ramirez’s case, he joined the Atlanta-based Southern Soccer Academy Kings of the USL League Two.


Daniel Mangarov made an immediate impact with the 2021 SoCon champions. As a Freshman, Mangarov started 12 of the 14 matches he played in the midfield for UNC Greensboro on the way to the NCAA playoffs. When his team was in need, Mangarov somehow found a way to thread the perfect final ball to lead to a winning goal. UNCG is a team on the rise with a lot of young talent. Based on his first season of experience with them, Mangarov seems set to be a key player in their rise. This summer Mangarov decided to continue his training with the North Carolina Fusion U-23 team in USL League Two this summer and helped the team reach the national final. Now entering his second season with UNCG, Mangarov returns to a team that is mostly intact and they will be determined to prove they belong in the college postseason again.

Chase Oliver returns to Wake Forest with plenty of confidence but also plenty left to prove. With the youth movement in full sway in Winston Salem, Oliver will look to work himself more consistently into the team’s rotation alongside a growing group of academy products. Oliver is a shifty midfielder with a cannon for a shooting foot. He did not get to show it off often last year but between a few regular season matches and warm-up friendlies, Oliver showed that he could grow into a prototypical Wake Forest scoring midfield or wing threat as he becomes more familiar with Bobby Muuss’s system.

Jordan Matthews hit the jackpot. The South Carolina Gamecocks fullback-turned-midfielder just got a new head coach and that head coach is his old Academy Director Tony Annan. Matthews played from the U-16 to U-19 levels with Atlanta United and appeared with Atlanta United 2 a few times as a fullback. In college, his focus has been further up the field as a wide midfielder or as a wing in order to use his speed and knack for getting upfield to the team’s advantage. It will be fascinating to see how he adapts to having a familiar face, albeit a demanding up, now ranging the sidelines.

Natnael McDonald also got a big change this off-season transferring away from Akron to join the larger Atlanta United diaspora at Mercer. McDonald joined Akron in a tumultuous time for that historic program and never was given an opportunity to make a difference. Now in his third year as a college player, McDonald brings experience and a desire to make up for lost time with a team with whom he should already have plenty of chemistry. Like Jordan Matthews, McDonald plays on the flanks and is listed as a midfielder simply to give him a label. He can play as a fullback, wing, or wide midfielder and will do well when combining with players like Dylan Gaither through the midfield.

Let’s call 2020 a transitional year for Omar Mustafic. His first season at Charlotte ended up not being a good fit so he transferred to Georgia Southern. He found a Southern team that frankly wasn’t any good. There were a few familiar faces from the academy, but that was only a small consolation in what what already a challenging transition. He ended up logging 300 minutes across 8 matches (one start) in the midfield but did not bring too much to the table that he will be satisfied with. Hopefully, he and the GSU team can turn it around and start fresh in 2021.

Remi Smith is about to have a lot of new company at the Air Force Academy. He is now the veteran ambassador to two knew academy alumni who are also looking to make an impact in Colorado Springs. Smith may enjoy a little familiarity as he too looks to establish himself as more of an impactful player in Air Force’s high-flying tactics.


Garrison Tubbs benefitted immensely from his 2s experience. Tubbs earned his place with the 2’s in 2019 alongside George Campbell and cemented his place as a regular starter in 2020 alongside team captain Mo Jadama. When Tubbs left Atlanta United for Wake Forest University, he was immediately called upon early in his Freshman season when redshirt senior Michael DeShields went down with a season-ending neck injury. Without missing a beat, Tubbs stepped right into the Wake Forest defense and earned himself a place on the ACC All-Freshman team. In his sophomore season, Coach Muuss will likely call on Tubbs early and often to help lead a young but highly talented group of defenders for the Demon Deacons.

I’m still not sure how we ended up with the academy player rights for Geni Kanyane but I’m sure glad we have them. Kanyane is a South African-born left-back who first got noticed by Atlanta United when at his prestigious New England school, Putnam Science Academy. Based on accolades from his former coach and athletic director, Kanyane seems to be another high-character young athlete with experience at the U-20 level for South Africa and with an intriguing toolset at an important skill position. He is a two-way fullback who gets involved in the offensive side of the game and creates a handful of shots per match. It is impossible to say how long he will play for the University of Dayton but as a freshman, he immediately made an impact with 6 starts in 7 appearances against some of Dayton’s conference rivals. Dayton played a mixture of 3 and 4-defender formations throughout the season so Kanyane got some experience in fullback and wingback roles. Though he was statistically quiet in his first year, we will likely hear a lot more from him soon as he extends his season with the local Dayton Dutch Lions of USL League Two this summer.

Like many of their peers in 2020, Thomas Toney and Anthony Reaves experienced a lost season. With the Ivy League canceling all athletics, the new Yale and Cornell defenders were left to train on his own and adjust to college life as the world turned upside down. Now entering their second year in the Ivy League, Toney and Reaves will hope to make up for lost time and show everyone what they have been missing.


Another revelation at the goalkeeping position is Cal Bears goalkeeper Collin Travasos. Colin Travasos had the most impressive season of any former Atlanta United academy goalkeeper. After receiving his first opportunities with the University of California Golden Bears this Spring, he continued to impress, even besting Justin Garces in key rivalry matchups. As a Redshirt Freshman, Travasos started ten matches and made 35 saves (on 141 shots) with 15 goals allowed, good enough for a respectable 1.59 goals conceded per match average. Travasos will look to improve on that in his next season in goal.

While Travasos looks to build on his first successful season, Akron Zips sophomore Josh Hangi is looking for his first chance in goal. Hangi was a highly touted player coming out of Atlanta United’s academy but found himself far down in the depth chart at his position when he arrived. Now that the incumbent senior goalkeeper has departed, it is an open competition for the starting spot. In order to get a leg up on his teammates, Hangi spent the summer training as part of the Atlanta United contingent with the Georgia Revolution. Hopefully, his experience leads to him getting some much-needed playing time for the Zips.

Sai Brown has been extremely patient and must be wondering when he will get his shot. After redshirting his first season at Georgia Southern, he went unused in his second year. Maybe the third year is the charm?

The Freshmen

The biggest news from this group is surprisingly not Will Reilly. It turns out that Coleman Gannon has other plans than taking his talents to the University of Indiana.

But back to Will Reilly.

Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta’s rising-star midfielder who grew exponentially before our eyes over the last three seasons with Atlanta United 2 is on his way to one of the most storied programs in American college soccer. Stanford is a perennial powerhouse and should offer Reilly plenty of opportunities to continue his growth on and off of the field. Reilly has maturity and polish beyond his years and has made great strides at improving his defense, strength, and ability to stay on the ball through physical challenges. Reilly is a facilitator, a box-to-box player, and a brilliant metronomic presence who can play at both the central midfield and holding midfield positions. In previous seasons he played a little deeper, dropping between the center backs to shuttle the ball forward, launch the offense, and clean up any turnovers. Reilly looks better as the link between a more physical defensive midfielder and a more dynamic and shifty attacking midfielder. As that glue that can hold together the midfield and link the entire system, Reilly can show his range and his technical prowess to grow into a real talent for the club and potentially for his country.

Another academy product paving the way to another top-flight program is Asparuh Slavov who was the first of three academy players to commit to the University of Virginia this past spring. Slavov has only been with the academy for a short time but has made a name for himself as a top-tier midfield prospect ranking 23rd in the country for the 2021 recruiting class. He brings a wealth of experience with him having previously played for the Bulgarian U-16 national team and trained with both Atlanta United and Atlanta United 2. Slavov brings good height and size to the midfield and could move quickly in his development if given a chance to compete early and often in the ACC.

Also headed to the ACC is Matthew Edwards who will join a University of North Carolina team that is currently ranked the #4 overall team in preseason polls. Edwards’ versatility on defense and experience with the 2s may earn him opportunities early with the Tar Heels. Edwards can play at left-back, centerback, and as a holding midfielder when needed. He is a strong and intelligent player with plenty of potential left for him to rise to this new level of competition.

Joining Remi Smith at the Air Force Academy are defenders Andrew Durkin and Kobey Stoup. Durkin and Stoup are both highly talented and mobile defenders with Stoup known for his ability to push the ball up the field. Durkin brings a background of leadership to the team, serving as the U-19s and U-17s captain in several tournaments. If given the opportunity to show their talent, Durken and Stoup immediately elevate Air Force’s play at the back and their ability to build from the back.

Soon, Atlanta United will be represented at every military college with a men’s soccer team. This year, Wasswa Robbins will join the Navy Midshipment and in 2021, Riley Cullum may be headed to Army. Robbins is a sturdy midfielder whose physical size (5’6”, 155 pounds) is not indicative in how he controls space in the middle of the field. Robbins split his time in high school between the academy and The Lovett School where he was a goal-creating powerhouse. Before heading to a military service academy, he served his country in another way by being part of the United States U-17 player pool. Like many young people accepted to Navy, he is an exceptional athlete and member of his community with plenty of awards and recognition to prove it. Navy will compete in the Patriot League in 2021 with a match-up set against Aldair Cortes and High Point on October 2nd. That may be one to watch.

Finally, while we don’t cover as many of the small-school members of our diaspora in these articles, Alessandro De Villena of University of North Georgia is worthy of a quick nod. The talented midfielder will play in the NCAA’s Division II and will match-up against other local products at Georgia Gwinnett College, Clayton States, and other regional small schools and community colleges. While the path to the professional game may be more challenging for this pool of players, it is not impossible. Jack Gurr worked his way from Georgia Gwinnett College to the 2s, Atlanta United’s CONCACAF squad, and now to Aberdeen. That should be an inspiring roadmap for these youngsters to follow.


These are players who are not currently listed with a college program at the time of the writing of this article. If you know about their updated status, please let us know in the comments so that we can continue to track and report their progress as players.

  • Dawson Gideon - formerly of Mercer
  • Matthew Rios - formerly of Georgia State
  • Blake White - formerly of the University of Alabama-Birmingham
  • Tavon Mussenden - formerly of Florida International University
  • Victor Delgado - formerly of NC State and Georgia Revolution
  • Miguel Gonzalez - formerly of Georgia Gwinnett College and Georgia Revolution
  • Alex Bahr - formerly of Georgia State
  • Betwel Mateyo - formerly of Atlanta United Academy


Here is a list of other players who were at one time affiliated with Atlanta United but did not graduate with the academy or only spent a short time with the academy. This is a growing list as more players are identified as being former members of the academy. If you know of a player that is missing then please let us know in the comments.

That’s a wrap on our giant preview. We will be updating this document as player statuses change and as we learn of new players from the Atlanta United diaspora who may have somehow escaped our research over the past few years. They are still out there.

In the comments, please let us know who you are most excited about, which teams you are excited to watch, and whom we may have missed. Seriously, let us know.

For all of your NCAA viewing pleasures, consider ESPN+. We aren’t sponsored by them but we may as well be at this point between the college game and the USL.