He’s arguably Atlanta United’s most popular player, yet he only played four minutes during the regular season and made one start in the team’s U.S. Open Cup loss to Miami FC. Still, for those who saw it, Andrew Carleton’s goal against Chattanooga FC was a magical moment that fans celebrated as if the team won MLS Cup. Between youth national team callups and even perhaps the surprisingly good play of Yamil Asad, Carleton didn’t get the minutes that a player as hyped by fans and heavily marketed by the team may have otherwise seen. Still, 2017 was a memorable year for him, so let’s see how his final exam stacks up.
Minutes played: 4 (MLS); 90 (USOC); 419 (U-17 World Cup)
Goals: 2 (U-17 World Cup); 1 (Pre-season)
What went right this year: Carleton didn’t play the first team minutes that many were hoping he’d get, but 2017 was still a successful season for the talented teenager. He started all 5 games at the U-17 World Cup as the youth team made a run into the knockout rounds of the tournament. At the youth level with Atlanta United, Carleton helped lead the U-15/16’s to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Championship, bringing Atlanta United its first ever hardware. As far as in MLS, he obviously played four minutes, but he featured in the MLS Homegrown Game showing his potential to have an impact in the league in the future.
What needs to improve: Simply put, Carleton needs to have more opportunities against professional players and show that he’s ready to perhaps step into Yamil Asad’s role if the winger goes back to his club in Argentina. As Hayes Creech of MLSSoccer.com reported this week, Carlos Bocanegra plans to get the youngster back into the second division and that could open things up for him in 2018. More practically, Carleton was effectively neutralized by teams who honed in on him during the U-17 World Cup and the winger needs to figure out how to get himself involved in games when he’s being targeted by opposing defenses.
Overall, it’s hard to grade a player who only played four minutes of MLS play and made a start in a tournament game with the “B” team. Keeping in mind that Carleton was away on international duty for much of 2017, he clearly had other priorities this season and manager Tata Martino may have felt that was a better use of his skills than training with the second team and getting garbage minutes late in games. Check back next year to see if he’s measured up to his potential and the hype.