- By Doug Roberson The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Andrew Carleton’s debut season in MLS consisted of four minutes in a 4-1 win over Houston on May 20.
It was four minutes that fans of the Five Stripes had wanted since the Powder Springs native became the team’s first Homegrown Player, signing at The Varsity on June 9, 2016.
Things may improve Carleton this season. Manager Gerardo Martino on Monday said that he can see Carleton, still 17, splitting minutes between Atlanta United and its USL affiliate, Atlanta United 2.
“It’s always good to hear positive things from the head coach,” Carleton said Friday.
Carleton’s 2017 year was split between Atlanta United and the Under-17 U.S. national team, which he and fellow Homegrown Chris Goslin helped lead to the World Cup knockout rounds in India.
Really, Carleton never got a lot of time to gain any traction with Atlanta United because of his commitment and desire to represent the U.S.
“It made it hard,” he said. “But playing for the national team is one of the biggest honors. I have zero complaints about that. I enjoyed every minute with the national team, as well as every minute here.”
And he was able to take some of the leadership lessons he was learning from Michael Parkhurst, Jeff Larentowicz and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and help his younger U.S. teammates.
Carleton may see more minutes with the Five Stripes this season because he won’t as many national-team commitments.
Plus, he said he is more mature, more versatile and facing players like Miguel Almiron has made him a better defender.
Carleton played the No. 10 role in the World Cup, moving inside to be a playmaker instead of his normal role on the wing.
He said he’s learned that he doesn’t have to try to beat every defender off the dribble. He has learned how to combine with teammates to get down the field, and then try to take advantage of his dribbling skill in the field’s final third.
Carleton said it doesn’t matter to him where he plays on the field, or even if it’s with Atlanta United or the USL affiliate, Atlanta United 2.
“I’m happy with the journey, wherever it takes me,” he said. “Whatever they choose I know they have my best interests in mind and the team as well. I will do the best I can with what is thrown at me.”