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Andrew Carleton focused on first-team minutes as they’re presented to him

While he didn’t see a great deal of first-team chances early in the season, the 18-year-old hopes to make the most of the chances he is given.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Carleton found out that he had been called up to the United States under-20 men’s national team in a rather unconventional way.

“I found out I had gotten called up because I had to call (U-20 coach) Tab (Ramos) to ask him a question,” he said.

Maybe the cat got out of the bag a little early - usually, it’s through email, which Carleton did receive - but message received, at least.

With a pair of friendlies in Spain against France and Japan in the rear view mirror, Carleton hopes that he made enough of an impression to make the final U-20 squad that will head to Poland for the World Cup in May. His goal in the 50th minute against Japan was key to the team’s 2-1 win just days after drawing France 2-2. For now, it’s back to MLS action and a contest against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, with much of the squad looking well-rested after a much needed break on the back end of a heavy first month of the season.

Granted, there’s not much rest for players like Carleton, who arrived from Spain last night.

“Most of the guys looked a little bit more fresh, at least in my first day back today,” Carleton said. “It seems like everybody’s in a positive mood and ready to get back at it at the club level. I think we’re all excited for the game coming up this weekend.”

The congested match schedule may have presented more of an opportunity for Carleton to get more time with the first team, but Frank de Boer opted to bring in the Cobb County native rather late in just two of the club’s matches. The 18-year-old came on around the 75-minute mark in Atlanta’s home opener against FC Cincinnati before an 11-minute spell in the club’s 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union on March 17. In between those games, he started and played 77 minutes in ATL UTD 2’s match against Louisville City FC on March 15.

Still, Carleton said that he didn’t really didn’t concern himself about whether or not he should have been granted more time with the first team.

“I’m more focused on how I do with the minutes that I do get,” said Carleton. “In the two games I was able to get into, I felt like I did a pretty decent job, especially against Cincinnati where I felt I was a bit stronger.”

And those opportunities might come, not just for Carleton but for other young players on the squad - especially in the latter stages of the season with some of the older players not being able to recover as quickly as they did earlier in their careers.

“They might be able to handle it right now, but later in the season it’s going to affect them,” Carleton said. “Having some younger guys being able to rotate in and take the edge off of…is part of what you’re seeing right now.”