The big news of the weekend was Atlanta United’s impending signing of the young Paraguayan striker Erik Lopez and his assignment to their 2nd division reserve squad. For many, the young Paraguayan represents a beacon of hope amidst an otherwise dismal downturn in an already tempestuous year. When Lopez will arrive and how he will feature for the 2’s is yet to be seen but that conversation seemed to be the dominant thread ahead of Atlanta United 2’s Saturday night fixture against Memphis 901 FC. Before the match, some fans were joking about how the real show in town this year may not be our beloved Five Stripes, but maybe their little brothers up the road in Kennesaw. The match that followed showed how right those fans might be but not for the reason they thought.
Lopez joins a young squad, so young, in fact, that the mean age of the starting lineup for Saturday night was 19.6 years old with the eldest being the captain, Mo Jadama (26), and the goalkeeper, Ben Lundgaard (24).
The lineup also featured another remarkable first for both the club and the organization. On Saturday night, Atlanta United 2 started six academy players and an academy graduate on his first professional deal. On the bench, David Mejia (M) and Vincente Reyes (GK) await their first professional minutes. For the majority of these players, this is only their first or second match above the youth level and they are about to take on a Memphis team full of seasoned USL veteran players.