In a first for Atlanta United, one of its academy players, 15-year-old Efrain Morales, will soon start an eight-day training experience with one of the world’s biggest clubs, Manchester United.
The Premier League giants, winners of 20 league titles as part of more than 65 trophies, identified Morales as a player of interest and approached Atlanta United Academy Director Tony Annan after a winter showcase.
“You can’t turn those experiences down, especially when you are a developing a player,” Annan said. “It’s a bonus to our academy that we are producing players of that caliber.”
Morales, a native of Suwanee, wasn’t made available to talk about the trial. He was selected in Atlanta United’s first academy classes in 2016 as a member of the U12 team. He has made 82 appearances for Atlanta United’s academy with six goals scored. He previously played for United Futbol Academy.
Morales is 6-foot-2, a strong tackler, a good passer with excellent technical ability who typically makes correct decisions, according to Annan. Morales can improve his positional awareness, but Annan said it’s not something that Atlanta United is concerned about. He said Morales is ahead of George Campbell, a Homegrown signing who is starting his rookie season with Atlanta United, for his age.
Annan said it’s not frequent for Manchester United to invite an American youth player to train in its academy. But he noted that as clubs form more relationships, such as Atlanta United’s with Aberdeen, it may become more common.
Annan and Academy Manager Matt Lawrey are going to accompany Morales during his trial with Manchester United.
Annan said Morales will train with Manchester United’s academy players, doing everything those players do. Annan described it as being immersed.
“It gives us a little pat on the back to say we are doing a decent job producing players that can play in the world’s best leagues,” Annan said.
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