Georgia United's Connor Davis is part of what he calls a strong back line that keeps the Development Academy under-17/18 team in games.
"We have the talent back there, and we're pretty organized," said Davis, an 18-year-old defender who is bound for Wofford College. "Up front, we have guys with speed who can break down other defenses."
It is that combination that has helped Georgia United to surge into third place in the Southeast Division of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy's South Conference, heading into a weekend trip to Virginia this Saturday and Sunday.
Georgia United blanked both IMG Soccer Academy and Weston FC by identical scores of 2-0, before battling through a scoreless tie with Kendall SC in its last three matches to climb to fourth in the at-large standings for the Academy playoffs.
Prior to mounting its undefeated run, however, Georgia United endured a scoreless tie with local rival Concorde Fire (3-1-4, 6-2-4) and lost 3-1 to the Clearwater Chargers (1-3-2, 2-5-3) -- squads that occupy second, and, seventh place, respectively, in the eight-team division.
"We've been getting balls in, we just weren't finishing them all the way. So this weekend, coming up, we need to get better at that. That will definitely improve the confidence of the team in general," Davis said.
Georgia United faces the Richmond Strikers on Saturday and McLean Youth Soccer on Sunday.
Forward-midfielder Kevin Hady leads the team with six goals, followed by forward Christopher Harrison with three, and, with two each, midfielders Amin El-Shami and Brandon Barbero.
Davis, John Collar and Stefan Rizzo are beginning to surge, defensively, in front of keeper Jonathan Stolls.
Georgia United program director Tony Annan calls El-Shami "a good player who is very technical and crafty," and Barbero "fantastic," and, "a dying breed. He's everywhere and he's good the ball. Doesn't do anything fancy but he's just a tough kid."
"By far the most solid player on the team, and the one who is carrying the team through is Connor Davis. He's a central defender, the team captain, and he's incredible," Annan said.
"Connor's absolutely brilliant in the air. His aireal abilities are fantastic. Plus he's got great feet and excellent composure for a central defender. He's a solid, solid defender," Annan said. "The team, in general, defends very well and is very well organized. They're very good in the midfield and in the back, but in the final third, that's where they've struggled."
Georgia United will need to find offensive production this weekend as its faces the Strikers and Mclean, teams that hold down the first and second-place positions in the South Conference Atlantic Division.
"Every game, we want to do well. Every game is a big game for us, whether it's in the division or out of the division. We treat everything the same basically at the moment. It will help us with our record, and it will help us with our confidence," Annan said. "Right now, this team is playing with a lot of confidence, so obviously, we want to continue that. We realize that the bigger games are in our conference, but we have to treat every game the same in order to get there."
Two victories would maintain Georgia United's momentum heading into its Nov. 13 rematch with division leader South Carolina United Battery (3-0-6, 5-0-6), which Georgia United tied, 1-1, on Oct. 8.
Georgia United led that game, 1-0, after Hady scored in the ninth minute, only to yield the equalizer to Wesley Eads in the 67th minute.
In addition to Eads (four goals), Davis and company will have to remain concious of South Carolina's other top scorers -- Nestor Jaramillo and Eli Dent with six goals each, and Travis Naylor (four goals).
"In the last game, we contained their outside wing as well as Nestor, their really strong player up top. We kept them off the board. They can usually link up their passes and get other players involved, but we were able to sort of take them out of their game," said Davis.
"From there, we were able to control the middle more effectively and generally control the game. That's pretty much the plan the next weekend when we play them. We'll have to address that situation again. We have to make sure that we're on the ball again."
Head coach Ray Tomlin agrees.
"South Carolina United were very organized defensively. Their back four played well together and knew when to step and when to drop. They counter-attack with numbers, and were good at switching the point of attack. They have a couple of key players including a midfield playmaker that if given time and space can really punish his opponents," Tomlin said.
"Tactically, we have to be very organized in midfield and track runners, because they have good movement off the ball in the midfield. We must be aware of this. Also, the next time we play South Carolina United we will need to do a better job of finishing. We created a few good chances but our shots were easily dealt with by the keeper or just off target."
Film study should remedy that, Annan said.
"We took some video, and we've been watching it," Annan said. "We believe that we know what to do the next time around."
This past weekend's top Academy goal scorers
2, Paul Arriola, Arsenal FC in 6-0 win over California Development Academy
2, Erick Chapa, FC Dallas in 7-0 win over Andromeda FC
2, Tyler Dowse, Concorde Fire in 2-0 win over IMG Soccer Academy
2, Nicholas Pappacena, Weston FC in 5-1 win over Georgia United
2, Jaime Villarreal, LA Galaxy in 3-0 win over Strikers FC
2, Valeriy Sviderskiy, Richmond Strikers in 4-2 win over Virginia Rush
2, Yussuf Olajde, IMG Soccer Academy in 2-1 win over Birmingham United
2, Leobardo Vazquez, Texas SC Houston in 3-1 win over Lonestar Academy
2, Todd Wharton, Richmond Strikers in 4-2 win over Virginia Rush