George Bello earning his first MLS minutes was a bright spot in Atlanta United’s 3-1 loss at D.C. United on Sunday.
The 16-year-old native of Douglasville entered the game in the 76th minute in place of Hector Villalba with Atlanta United trailing 2-1.
“It was a blessing,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the win. To make my debut is a dream come true.”
Bello is the third Atlanta United player younger than 20 to either make his first start or earn his first minutes with the team this season. Andrew Carleton was 17 when he made his first start on June 22, and Ezequiel Barco was 18 when he made his first start on April 15.
Bello didn’t know that he was going into Sunday’s game until one of the assistant coaches told him minutes before his No. 21 flashed on the board held by the fourth official. He was told to attack and put in as many crosses as he could to strikers Josef Martinez and Romario Williams. Bello said he was happy with how he played, and next time he will be even more comfortable. Teammate Jeff larentowicz, who made his 365th MLS start, thought Bello was fantastic.
So did his manager.
“I think he did a good job,” Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said. “He took initiative when he went in, which is what he asked him to do.”
Because of speed and technical ability, Bello is considered one of the brightest prospects in the U.S. Youth National Team pool of players.
He began training with Atlanta United’s first team weeks ago after injuries to Greg Garza (shoulder), Sal Zizzo (knee) and Mikey Ambrose (knee) depleted the depth at fullback.
Bello said he was slightly nervous, but that went away once he entered the game.
“I’ve been waiting for the moment a long time,” he said.