Sports in the state of Georgia such as football, basketball and baseball have received national recognition for being at an elite level from the prep level to professional athletics. One sport that has gained attention has been soccer.
Atlanta United FC’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2017 has brought unprecedented attention to the sport to not only the state of Georgia but the entire southeast region of the United States. The team has sold out its first seven home contests and has a local flavor with several athletes from the Peach State on the roster.
Decatur native and Lakeside (DeKalb) High School alumnus Alec Kann has started every match accept one for the United, posting four shutouts and eight wins overall this season. As a younger player, Kann was able to see one of Atlanta’s original professional soccer teams, the Atlanta Ruckus, which was launched in 1994, play in DeKalb County. The Ruckus eventually became the Atlanta Silverbacks which is currently in the National Premier Soccer League.
“Southern soccer has become big,” Kann said.
Another United player making his mark has been Locust Grove native Chris Goslin who signed on as a homegrown player for Atlanta United on Oct. 6, 2016. The 17-year-old midfielder has already seen professional action after a stint with the Charleston Battery in 2016 as well. Goslin was also on the active roster for the United’s 3-2 home win over the Battery in the 4th round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on June 14.
“It's been great being here playing for Atlanta,” he said. “I’ve spent my whole life here, it's hard to explain being a professional in front of your friends and family. It's amazing.”
The presence of the United in the MLS, the highest-level league in the country, has grown the excitement of the sport in Georgia.
“The reception has been unbelievable,” Goslin said. “You can drive down I-75 and see at least 50 Atlanta United stickers in peoples’ cars. There are banners and flags out throughout the city.”
Goslin has also reached the rare distinction of being a professional athlete before reaching official adulthood.
“There hasn’t been much pressure being a professional but more excitement,” he said. “You’re young and a lot is expected from your teammates and coaches so there’s some pressure on your shoulders but its exciting playing in my hometown.”
Goslin began player with the U-8 squad of the Thunder Soccer Club out of the Henry County Soccer Association. He stayed with the squad until the age of 14 when he signed with the Georgia United, the developmental academy of the eventual Atlanta United.
Goslin scored three goals in 11 appearances for Georgia United’s U-18 team during the 2015-16 United States Soccer Development Academy season, spending time with both the United and the U.S. U-17 residency program.
“I was excited when the team was announced to be in Atlanta,” Goslin said. “Growing up, we would play MLS teams at the Academy and always wanted to have one in Atlanta to play for and support.”
He has also gained extensive international experience with the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT). Goslin made his debut with the USMNT on the U-14 team in 2012.
Goslin has been on the U-17 USMNT team for two tournaments in June; the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) U-17 Championship, in which the team placed second and the International Festival.
“It’s been great to get some games under my belt,” Goslin said.
“We’ve always had great soccer here such as the Silverbacks which I grew up watching,” Goslin said. “Its great representing the southeast in MLS.”
Goslin and Kann aren’t the lone Georgia natives on Atlanta United. The squad includes Goslin’s fellow USMNT U-17 member and Powder Springs-native Andrew Carleton and Marietta-native Mark Bloom.
The reach of Georgia professional soccer players has extended throughout all of MLS. Atlanta native and St. Pius X alumnus Ricardo Clark has made his mark as a 13-year MLS veteran. The midfielder has spent the past seven seasons with the Houston Dynamo and appeared in 17 matches this season, posting two assists. Clark has 34 caps with the United States Men’s National Team in his career.
Montreal Impact defender and Wesleyan School alumnus Chris Duvall is a four-year veteran currently in his first year with the squad after spending the previous three campaigns with the New York Red Bulls. Duvall has started 15 games and appeared in 16 matches overall this season, posting one goal and one assist.
Lawrenceville native Walter Zimmerman plays for FC Dallas, Acworth resident Warren Creavalle is on the Philadelphia Union while Sam Cronin (Minnesota United FC) and Sean Johnson (New York City FC), both Atlanta natives, are also on MLS squads.
Atlanta United returns to action on July 21 at Orlando City. Goslin and Carleton will also be on the USMNT for the FIFA U-17 World Cup which will take place in India from October 6-28.
In club soccer news, the U18 Tophat Soccer Club placed fourth in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) National Playoff Tournament held in Rockford, Illinois from June 22-27. Team member Jessica Haidet was named to the National All-America Team while the Southeast All-America Team included Belle Briede, Caroline Orman and Haidet.
Led by coaches Troy Garner and Alexa Jones, Tophat's team this season consisted of 14 graduated high school seniors entering college this fall and four rising seniors.
All of the graduating seniors will continue their careers at Division I schools: Briede (Stanford University), Orman (Samford University), Haidet (University of Southern California), Kayla Bruster (University of Georgia), Lauren Burke (Appalachian State), Lauren Chang (University of South Carolina), Hannah Davis (University of Georgia), Delaney Erwin (University of Georgia), Kara Henderson (Virginia Tech), Landon Lambert (University of Georgia), Grace Nguyen (Georgetown University), Lexi Orman (Samford University), Heitho Shipp (Carnegie Mellon University) and Casey Wertz (University of Alabama). The other Tophat players were Delaney Graham, Olivia Dedels, Cecily Stoute and Jackson Moehler.