The second day of this year’s USL 20 Under 20 selections include the youngest player on this year’s list, two returnees from the 2018 list, a top young Canadian who earned his first full National Team call-up before making his First Team debut in Toronto, and two of the brightest players to emerge from Atlanta since the inception of Atlanta United FC's Academy three years ago.
While he may only be 15 years old, Moses Nyeman has already turned heads in the midfield for Loudoun United FC during the club’s inaugural campaign, which bodes well for a future that should see him feature prominently for the next United States U-17 National Team and much more beyond.
Still slight in stature, listed at 5-foot-5 and 126 pounds, Nyeman’s awareness and touch has seen him smoothly transition into the professional ranks.
The central midfielder sports a rate of 50.8 passes per 90 minutes across his 11 appearances, averaging an accuracy rate of 86.5 percent with 11 key passes, one goal and one assist so far this season.
Still a USL Academy signing, the easy comparison to make is to Chris Durkin, himself a 20 Under 20 selection in the past. Nyeman seems set to forge his own path, though, with the potential to shine for club and country ahead.
- A player Moses’ age is always going to get extra attention from neutral observers when he’s on the field for Loudoun, how do you think he’s managed that added spotlight?
Moses has handled it very well. He is a young gifted player but one of his best and strongest qualities is his mentality, work ethic and values. He stays very humble and works extremely hard. He is a great kid and deserves everything coming his way.
- It’s very early, but there seem to be some very positive numbers coming out of his first appearances for the club. Do those match up with the way you’re seeing him perform live?
Absolutely, I have been fortunate to be around Moses for three years now and he plays, and more importantly, thinks way beyond his years. He is incredibly composed and reads the game at a high level for a kid so young. He has gotten better and better with each match and I know it will only continue.
- We’ve already seen one player in Chris Durkin follow the path through the Championship to D.C. and now on loan in Europe. Is there the feeling Moses could be on a similar pathway up the club?
We hope, that’s the whole purpose of what we are doing, to make sure a player like Moses can make it to the First Team, and if his ambition down the road is Europe then that’s tremendous, but our hope is that he can start and be a key fixture in the D.C. United midfield for years to come!
Having made his debut for ATL UTD 2 early this season and set to join Atlanta’s MLS squad in January as a Homegrown player, George Campbell has moved firmly into the spotlight in his first season in the professional ranks.
Through his first 19 appearances and 17 starts, the 18-year-old ranks in the top three in Atlanta’s squad in clearances (52), tackles won (23), blocked shots (11), duels won (121) and aerial won (39) while sitting eighth in minutes, and has posted at least a 63-percent success rate in tackles, duels and aerials.
His play has drawn the attention of the U.S. Youth National Team program, where he was selected for the first U.S. U-20 National Team camp of the new cycle as the team starts to build toward the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
After a successful start to his career, Campbell figures to be one to watch closely over the next two years.
- George has made his first steps with ATL UTD 2 this year, where have you seen the biggest areas of growth as he moves into the professional ranks?
His biggest areas of growth are probably split with and without the ball. Without the ball, his ability to handle experienced opponents that we see in the USL. So, good center forwards that have been playing in the league for a number of years and George is playing against players like that which he doesn’t see in the Academy and he is handling it well. With the ball, his choice of pass. He continues to make good decisions on the ball, he continues to pick the right passes, playing simple at the right times and running with the ball at the right times. He is doing that against more experienced players as well, which is very positive.
- The U.S. Youth National Team recently started its next U-20 cycle, was it pleasing to see George among those called in by Tab Ramos for its European camp in August?
Very pleasing when one of the players at the club gets called into something like that from Tab, it’s great. It’s recognition for the work that we are doing at this level and it is recognition for the player and how he is continuing to excel. We are really pleased with George’s progress and the fact that he gets selected.
- We know how upbeat the staff is about the sort of player George can be, where do you envision his ceiling if everything goes to plan?
Dependent on too many factors to put a label on how high George can go. What will happen is we will continue to be the best environment for him, between ourselves and the First Team. Different training environments, different stimulus to get the best out of him. If George continues to be the professional that he is, continues to listen, learn from the coaches and his teammates, then he is going to have a very good career.
Selected for a second consecutive season, Ngalina’s consistent production in the Championship earlier this season saw him signed by the Philadelphia Union with the native of the Democratic Republic of Congo earning the first Major League Soccer minutes of his career this May.
Ngalina has already matched his attacking totals from 2018’s regular season with six goals and two assists, but the growing refinement of his game is visible in a higher passing accuracy (71.6 percent) and cross success rate (9 of 38) than a season ago.
What has stood out most this season, though, is Ngalina’s expanded shooting range that has seen him score three times from outside the penalty area, tied for fifth in the league in that category.
Still only 19 years old, Ngalina has plenty of time to continue his maturation as he looks to take the next step in his career in 2020.
- Michee’s numbers this season have been very comparable to his 2018 season, has it been a good year for him as he’s moved into the Union’s squad?
Michee is having a great season through his matches with the Steel. He brings pace and energy every time he steps onto the pitch. Michee’s quality is evident every day in Union training and we are excited for when he begins to break into the First Team squad consistently.
- What is going to be the next step for him to earn the chance at MLS minutes?
Forward is one of our most competitive positions for the Union right now and we are excited about Michee’s future with us. He has shown that he can fit our system of pressing and can use his speed in both defense and the attack to make an impact in matches. His next step is to improve tactically and show that he can make that impact consistently and better than our current first choices.”
- What do you enjoy most about watching Michee play right now?
Michee’s speed is impressive. He could be a real weapon in terms of counterattacking and threatening opponents’ goals. More than that, Michee is a positive personality and is always giving his best in every game and every training session.
Named to this list a year ago, and subsequently nominated for the USL Championship’s Young Player of the Year at the end of the season, Andrew Carleton has had some ups and downs this year but now appears to be returning to the sort of form that had him pegged as such a talented prospect when he joined Atlanta United as its first Homegrown Player in 2016.
After being held without a goal in his first 11 appearances for ATL UTD 2, recording two assists and 14 chances created, Carleton has caught fire since mid-August with five goals in four consecutive appearances that have conjured memories of his play at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup when he helped the United States reach the tournament’s Quarterfinals.
That level of production in the Championship ranks bodes well for the future of the 19-year-old attacking midfielder.
- Andrew has played 15 games this season for ATL UTD 2, has five goals, two assists, 18 chances created. Is there anything that’s stood out in those performances from an organizational perspective?
The thing that stood out for me most is that he has been his best is when he has had a run of games. When he is consistently playing games and he is staying fit, he is giving himself an opportunity to be the best that he can be. That is probably the biggest thing that stands out. His best games have come in groups almost where he has got a consistency of performance, a consistency of if he is with the First Team or [ATL UTD2] and that has really helped his development.
- When Andrew is on his game, his talent really shines. Is there anything the club has worked on to try and find that level more consistently game-in and game-out?
We’ve kept him consistent in his preparation for games in what group he is with. Other than that, it is down to Andrew’s talent and how he handles it best.
- Atlanta United is one of the toughest starting 11s to break into in MLS. What is Andrew’s path to earning that opportunity on a consistent basis?
Andrew is similar to all of our young professionals that in order to earn an opportunity regularly with the First Team, he has to perform well when he is with [ATL UTD2]. I think it is the way that it should be, it’s the way the club is set up. He gets numerous opportunities to show the manager how good he can be in-game, which is obviously different from training. He is like any other young professional in that respect, that he gets plenty of opportunities to show his talent.
There’s a lot that can be said about the potential of Toronto FC II youngster Noble Okello, but how highly he’s regarded in Canadian soccer circles can be summed up in the fact that the 19-year-old was selected to Canada’s 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup squad this summer before having made his debut for Toronto FC.
That debut for TFC officially arrived this August in the 2019 Canadian Championship as the Reds squared off with the USL Championship’s Ottawa Fury FC in the Semifinals, but the 6-foot-5 central midfielder has been turning heads with his prowess since coming into the TFC Academy as a 12-year-old.
Now having reached 40 appearances for TFC II, Okello has a chance to follow his fellow former Academy standouts Ashtone Morgan, Liam Fraser and Jay Chapman in becoming a regular for the club’s MLS side.
After his taste of top-level international competition this summer, the future is wide open for the native of The 6.
- What does it say about Noble that he was selected to Canada’s Gold Cup squad this summer despite having very little first team experience at TFC?
It says that he has a lot of potential that requires close observation.
- Coming up on 40 games for Toronto FC II, is Noble’s progression about where the club expected it to be at this point?
His progression has been good. I think he has a real opportunity to dominate and be a force within the team and league. That would be a nice progression and a sign that he is ready for first team minutes. His performance during the Canadian Championship is something we hope to see on a regular and consistent basis.