Andrew Carleton, a 16-year old from Powder Springs, sits in the wings at Atlanta United waiting for his opportunity. The highly touted youngster has received heaps of praise already in his young career, but has yet to kick a ball competitively for Atlanta.
Carleton has made his debut for the expansion side as he played the second half of their first preseason match against Chattanooga FC. The 16-year old went on to score in his first appearance for his hometown club, turning the ball in from close range to secure a 4-0 win.
Since the MLS season began back on March 5th, Carleton has not appeared among the substitutes in any of Atlanta’s opening four games. The questions regarding Carleton have already began to circulate, with many wondering when Tata Martino will give the teenager his chance at a competitive level. The odds of Carleton making an appearance soon are low because despite the potential Martino has mentioned in press conferences, he is still just a kid. While his appearances for the United States U18s continue to impress fans but he is a work in progress.
Fans have seen what he is capable of in games for the United States youth sides, as well as playing in the USL last season but the development must continue before he’s thrown into the deep end.
The emergence of 18-year old Christian Pulisic for Borussia Dortmund and the United States national team have shown that there are talented players developing for the United States. With Carleton proving to be a talent that has caught the eye of many, it makes sense that fans are desperate to see how he handles playing against men twice his age.
Martino isn’t rushing the development of the young winger, which is a positive sign. He wants to mold Carleton into a more complete player, allowing him to grow physically and develop his game further before he is given an opportunity in Major League Soccer.
As the season progresses and Martino is forced into rotating the squad to keep players fresh, we may see a glimpse of Carleton on the bench and possibly even a small cameo but the chances are slim. The teenage sensation must earn his stripes (pun intended) and if it takes a loan to the Charleston Battery to continue his growth, so be it.
The future is bright for Andrew Carleton and Atlanta have an exceptional talent on their hands, but it seems as though it will be a little while before he makes his mark in MLS.