Atlanta United academy continues to develop

George Campbell dribbles the ball during the preseason match against the Philadelphia Union during preseason at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, on Friday January 24, 2020. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

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George Campbell dribbles the ball during the preseason match against the Philadelphia Union during preseason at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, on Friday January 24, 2020. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

The evolution of Atlanta United’s academy took more steps in the past two weeks.

Charlie Asensio, a former player in the club’s academy, was selected by Austin in the second round of the MLS draft. Asensio, who matriculated at Clemson and had four stellar years, became the first player from the academy to be selected in the MLS draft.

Two weeks ago, Atlanta United 2 signed two players who were in the academy’s inaugural class, Vicente Reyes and Jonantan Villal. They are sixth and seventh players to sign professional contracts with the 2s since the academy started in 2016.

In addition to producing Homegrown signings such as George Bello and George Campbell, among others, for the first team, the academy is generating a spectrum of talent. Six more players from the academy, who haven’t yet signed professional contracts, debuted for Atlanta United 2 last season.

“Our academy has been up and running for five, six years,” Atlanta United Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said. “So we’re starting to see kids that have gone to college or have been with us since, you know 12, 13 years old, and they’ve been in the in the system for a while. They understand the philosophy, they understand the physical demands, the culture around the club.

“And a lot of these kids, one, some don’t have an interest in going to college. Some also have the trajectory where they’re able to be here a lot more when they’re in a professional environment. Get more touches on the ball, in the gym, the nutrition, all that other stuff and hopefully develop at a more rapid pace.”

Bocanegra said some of the academy players and Homegrowns will get chances to train with the first team during the preseason, which is a common tactic used by the team during weeks when there are no games.

The first team currently includes seven Homegrown signings: Bello, Campbell, Machop Chol, Jackson Conway, Efrain Morales, Bryce Washington and Tyler Wolff. Past signings who are no longer with the club are Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo.

That only Bello and Campbell contributed played at least 500 minutes last season should be seen as a positive and not as a criticism of the quality of players being developed, according to Bocanegra.

“It’s having the balance of pushing Academy players through and giving these opportunities as well as trying to win the championship,” Bocanegra said. “So we don’t want to go only youth or only non-homegrown. It’s trying to have the right mix and right balance for the club. Overall, we’re really pleased with that. And it’s something that we put a lot of time and energy into that whole pathway, the academy, second team and like I said Gonzalo is on board with that, which is great. So these guys get a get opportunities not only training but with the second team.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m., FS1

March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

March 13 vs. Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FS1

March 19 vs. Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 2 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 9 at Charlotte, 3 p.m., ESPN

April 16 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 24 at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN

April 30 at Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 7 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 15 vs. New England, 2 p.m., ESPN

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE