George Bello, the 16-year-old homegrown defender, scored his first MLS goal for Atlanta United in a 2-1 win against visiting New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon, though star midfielder Miguel Almiron picked up an injury.
At 16 years and 257 days, Bello is the youngest player this season and sixth-youngest in MLS history to score a league goal. Freddy Adu, who scored his first goal for D.C. United as a 14-year-old in 2004, still holds the record.
Bello, a native of Douglasville, Georgia, was making his third appearance and his second start. He scored the opener in the 17th minute off an assist from Leandro Gonzalez Pirez after Atlanta was awarded a free kick just shy of midfield.
Pirez played a pass down the left wing and through the New England defense, allowing Bello to run from the sideline onto the ball near the top of the 18-yard box. Bello took one touch and then hammered a 15-yard, left-footed shot to the near post that seemingly stunned Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
Coach Tata Martino tampered expectations about what the teenager can contribute with the playoffs only two games away.
"I think we all have to remain calm with George Bello," Martino said. "Although he has all the ability to play, and he did well in his second start, he's only 16 years old. We know that now we have two finals left to play and then the playoffs after that, so we just have to know that he is capable of playing if he is called upon to play."
Atlanta (20-6-6, 66 points) remained atop both the Eastern Conference and the race for the Supporters' Shield, which goes to the MLS team with the most regular-season points.
But United could be without Almiron until the playoffs after the Paraguayan, who was linked with a move to Arsenal this week, was forced to leave the game in the 30th minute because of an apparent leg injury.
"In regard to Miguel, he is having some tests done and we won't know the results until later. It seems like it was a muscular injury," said Martino, adding that Almiron is likely to miss the final two games of the regular season.
New England (8-12-11, 35) saw its flickering playoff hopes take a hit. The Revolution entered the weekend five points out of the conference's final playoff berth and now have just three games remaining.
Atlanta midfielder Julian Gressel made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute off an assist from Hector Villalba, who drove down the right wing before slotting a short through-ball into the penalty area. Gressel ran onto the ball and his right-footed, one-timer from about 15 yards beat Knighton.
New England avoided the shutout on Juan Agudelo's goal in second-half stoppage time, with an assist going to Diego Fagundez. Agudelo took a pass in the penalty area, deked around Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan and nearly dribbled the ball into the net.
Atlanta forward Josef Martinez, who leads MLS with a record 30 goals, was held off the scoresheet. He attempted three shots, with two on goal.