Q&A with rising Atlanta United FC U-18 star Lagos Kunga

It’s safe to say that Atlanta United U-18 forward (and high school senior) Lagos Kunga has had a pretty solid start to his 2017.  Not only was he one of seven youth players to be called up to the senior squad for preseason training in January, but he also made coach Brad Friedel’s U-19 USMNT camp as well.  The week long training camp is currently ongoing in Sunrise, Florida and will see the U-19s face off against El Salvador and Miami FC.

Kunga, an Atlanta area native, was recently ranked by TopDrawerSoccer.com as Atlanta United FC’s top academy player.  The midfielder/striker has scored seven goals in 12 games with the youth team.  Prior to his U-18 days, YouTube clips of his brilliant goal in the Georgia state finals as a high school freshman were all over Twitter.

A rapidly rising player in the U.S. youth ranks, Kunga appears to be in the perfect situation with his hometown Atlanta United FC. In addition to the proximity of where he grew up, Kunga also has a chance to work with head coach Gerardo Martino (formerly of Barcelona and Argentina), and technical director Carlos Bocanegra (110 senior caps with the USMNT.)

With the massive opportunity at the start of his playing career, the 18-year-old Kunga is definitely excited to get to work.

How did you get into soccer?

“Soccer has been with me since I was a little kid. I remember watching Zidane when I was a kid and right away I fell in love with the game. I think soccer is in my blood. I was raised in a soccer family. My cousins, uncles, and mom played but none of them played college or professional. So hopefully I will take soccer as far for them.”

What player do you emulate your style of play after?

“When playing I try to be myself, original, but I do look up to a few players like Ronaldo (Brazil), Zidane, Neymar, Hazard, Mahrez, and other wingers.”

How difficult is it balancing school and soccer?

“It’s very hard balancing school and soccer. I have daily homework along with soccer practice everyday and sometimes even projects. Team travel and weekend games also take up time, so I have to find time during school hours, like lunch, to do homework. Especially when I go away for a week or so.”

How exciting is it to see Atlanta get an MLS team?

“It’s very exciting. I used to go to Atlanta Silverbacks games all the time which used to play NASL. Atlanta getting an MLS team is awesome. I think the timing is perfect. One day, I hope to play with the first team in front of my friends and family. It would mean the world to me.”

How big is soccer in Atlanta?

“Soccer is a very big part of the community where I live in Atlanta. In all of Atlanta youth soccer is big and growing. We just built the first ever soccer field INSIDE a transit station and are building a $1.5 billion dollar stadium for Atlanta United, which is crazy and awesome! I think ever since Atlanta has gotten an MLS team, support and growth for the sport has risen here! We are all excited for March 5th.”

How special is it to have Bocanegra and Martino involved at the club?

“Tata and his staff are great. Tata is a great coach with experience coaching at Barcelona and Argentina. He brings a new and fresh style to the league and Atlanta. If the team takes in what he is telling us and apply it, it would be a successful season. Bocanegra is like a father figure. He always checks on me, makes sure I’m doing well, and staying on the right path. Being part of this club is very very very special. I am extremely thankful.”

Personal goals for 2017?

“It’s hard to say. I’m very focused on getting better and stronger. I want to be involved with the first team more in the near future.”

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