© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta United 2 Youth Movement is Looking Scary for Everyone Else

Jarrett Smith
June 14, 2018 - 12:30 am

Wednesday night Atlanta United 2 posted their starting lineup about an hour before kickoff. It is the same thing they always do, but more often than not the ages next to the names get smaller and the average age of the squad shrinks day by day.

Scott Donnelly and company keep tapping into the mine that is Atlanta United’s academy and they keep handing opportunities to young players eager to make their mark.

Wednesday saw Atlanta United 2’s midfield, made up of rookie Oliver Shannon and two homegrown players in Chris Goslin and Andrew Carleton, thrown into a tough situation and asked to feel their way through the match for 90 minutes.

The match got off to a rough start with Atlanta falling asleep on a corner and surrendering a goal in the sixth minute, but Manager Scott Donnelly was happy to see the kids solve a tough puzzle.

“Too much information, yelling too much from the sideline does them no good,” said Donnelly. “You sit back and you say ‘they’re going to have to solve it’ and I’m glad that they did. They came through not an ideal scenario well.”

Andrew Carleton put together probably his most complete performance with the second team. It comes on the heels of his first goal with the first team in the U.S. Open Cup and continues his momentum in 2018.

Chris Goslin gutted out the game after taking a knock and nearly put away the winner late after trying to find his second wind.

“Chris is making steady progress,” Donnelly Said. “In other games maybe, we look to give him a little break late in the game but this one I decided to let him gut it out and he did. A little dip in form maybe around the 75th but then he came on strong and finished the game well.”

It was the fourth straight match that Atlanta United 2 has out-possessed its opponent and the growing confidence and comfort of the young midfield surely has a hand in that.

One of the surprises from the game was the inclusion of 17-year-old goalkeeper Justin Garces.

He made waves in 2017 with his performances in the U-17 World Cup in India where he featured with Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin.

Garces surrendered a goal in the first 10 minutes but could hardly be blamed for it and settled in as the match went on, making a few key saves including a confident clearance at the death to secure the point. Garces said things settled down for him as things went on.

“I botched the first pass early in the first half but after that I felt like everything kind of went away,” said Garces. “I feel like the game kind of opened up a bit and I was just able to play freely.”

Garces ended the night with 3 saves

Finally, the club brought up another academy player in Chad Letts to provide some depth across the bench. Letts spent time with Philadelphia’s academy before moving back closer to home and Donnelly likes the versatility Letts provides.

“If things had gone slightly differently Chad would have been a guy we put on for pro minutes,” said Donnelly. “He’s dynamic, he’s dangerous around goal, he’s good 1v1.”

It can be confusing from the outside to look at the club’s record and see the success, yet the success is there and it is becoming more visible. The academy products keep getting chances and they have gone from getting minutes with the hopes of making an impact to playing vital roles in game plan of the club. When combined with stable veterans like AJ Cochran, Devon Sandoval and Shawn Nicklaw – whose shot that was ruled an own goal should be on ESPN for the rest of the week if there is any justice – Atlanta United 2 is getting more dangerous and the future is looking brighter.

Half of the roster might not be able to buy a drink, but they are getting close to being able to take three points off anyone in USL at will.