If you ask Atlanta United supporters, Carleton’s late substitution appearance for the Five Stripes against Houston Dynamo on May 20th, a match in which the then 16-year-old played four regulation minutes, was a bright spot in a season full of them for the expansion club. That night at Bobby Dodd Stadium ended up being the winger’s only appearance for the first-team in 2017.
But it’s not just the fans who have high hopes for the Powder Springs, Georgia native, who starred for the US during their successful run at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in October.
“Obviously everybody wants to see Andrew Carleton get some time,” captain Michael Parkhurst said during the team’s end-of-season media day this week, when asked who he thinks could be more impactful in 2018.
“He’s an exciting, young player. It’s difficult in those positions right now with the talent we have on the team, so hopefully he has a good offseason and a very good preseason and keeps pushing. He’s got some skills that you want to see how it translates to the pro level. I think that he can be successful, so it’s a matter of time with him. We don’t know how soon that will be.”
Parkhurst was not the only first-team regular to single out “The Frosted Orange” (a nickname some fans have given to blonde-tipped Carleton after the local institution The Varsity’s iconic slushy-like drink) when asked who could step up in 2018.
“I think Andrew Carleton,” said 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year Julian Gressel. “If he matures a little more, I think there’s a lot of stuff to him that could cause a lot of headaches for other coaches and defenders. I think he could be a guy that could make a difference for us next year.”
There are multiple factors that combine to aide in contributing to Carleton, the club’s first-ever Homegrown signing, getting more first-team minutes in 2018.
Atlanta United will be operating a club in USL next season, which automatically provides a platform for players like Carleton to get more competitive minutes on a regular basis.
As technical director Carlos Bocanegra put it: “It’s about getting them 10-15 games in the USL, where they’re competing against men, guys that are out there putting food on the table for their families.”
More opportunities in USL and fewer time away on international duty with US youth teams should only help Carleton reach his goal of playing in front of 70,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on a more regular basis.
And if the belief shown in him by Atlanta starters early this offseason is anything to go by, all signs point to Carleton getting much more than four minutes in 2018.