MARIETTA, Ga. — Wearing the captain’s armband, it was only fitting that this would be Andrew Carleton’s night. Playing under the lights with the summer Georgian rain teeming down, Atlanta United's very own Homegrown star was in his element as he shined in the MLS Homegrown Team’s 1-1 draw with Mexican U-20 champions Tigres UANL in the 2018 MLS Homegrown Game presented by Energizer on Wednesday.
Carleton was the match’s official MVP, playing provider in the sequence that led to Liam Fraser’s first-half goal. Carleton showed at times why MLS Homegrown head coach Tony Annan said “he does things that other players don’t dare to do.”
One standout moment in particular was when Carleton drew two defenders into the corner of the pitch before wriggling his way free of both of them with a roulette before drawing a foul in a dangerous position for his team. Peak Carleton.
“It was an honor representing Atlanta, representing the league and representing my family,” Carleton said after the match. “It was a dream come true, wearing the captain’s armband, representing the guys and everything.”
“Our goal was to go out there, have fun, play well. I think all the guys enjoyed it and had a good time out there. I enjoyed my soccer and I thought it was a pretty successful night.”
Carleton showed glimpses of his growing maturity in the midst of a regular season that has includes his first start with the senior team earlier this month, in Atlanta's 3-1 home win over D.C. United.
“I’m starting to get more comfortable within [Atlanta United’s first team]. With the more games and more reps you get in, it’s good for you. Both off and on the pitch, I’m maturing,” said the 18-year-old.
Carleton already speaks with the confidence and poise of an established captain.
“I thought we were the better team," he opined of the Homegrown Game. "They had a few chances early in the game, but as the game went on we got more and more comfortable and started to play some nice stuff. We created a few chances and personally I feel like we deserved to win the game but that’s how soccer goes.”
It looked as though the Homegrowns would see out the game, after Jesus Ferreira scored on an audacious individual play to make it 2-0. But after the referee consulted Video Review, the goal was taken off for a goalkeeper infraction at the other end, and Tigres scored on the resulting indirect free kick. A subsequent red card put the Liga MX side down to 10 men, but the Homegrown Team couldn't find the go-ahead goal.
Carleton left the training ground with the MVP trophy in hand like it was any other night, but he did acknowledge the moment in his young career.
“It was definitely a pretty special moment for me and I enjoyed it. I look forward to wearing the armband sometime soon down the road,” he said.