Andrew Carleton, Nick Hagglund - Atlanta United vs. FC Cincinnati
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Frank de Boer urges Andrew Carleton "to grow up," avoid "distractions"

Andrew Carleton has all the talent and quality required to thrive as an Atlanta United regular – he just needs to grow up, in every sense of the term.

That was head coach Frank de Boer’s message to the talented Homegrown winger in the wake of the 18-year-old’s failure to earn a spot on the US Under-20 national team’s World Cup squad last week.

“He's still very young. I think physically and as a professional, he has to improve. His quality, there is no doubt about it,” de Boer told reporters at a media availability when asked about Carleton. ATLUTD’s Dutch boss suggested that he emulate the professionalism of Jeff Larentowicz, the 35-year-old veteran who just marked his 400th MLS appearance over the weekend.

“I think if he has like 60 percent of Jeff, 70 percent, then he already made a major step. Because Jeff, you don’t see a lot these kind of players, who really know exactly what they have to do, inside and outside the field. [Carleton] is still young and he has to learn from that. And we spoke about that. He still has to grow up as a man.”

Atlanta’s first-ever Homegrown signing, Carleton made seven league appearances last season and showed well in U.S. Open Cup action, earning the No. 19 spot on MLSsoccer.com's "22 Under 22" list. But he was suspended for the Five Stripes’ MLS Cup win due to unspecified breaches of discipline, and this year he’s played just 64 minutes over three games thus far.

“He is young and there are a lot of things that you think, ‘hey, that’s tempting to do,’ distractions,” said De Boer. “Those kind of things, you see it everywhere. Because he’s an Atlanta United first-team player, you get a lot of attention. But you have to resist it sometimes. I think he can do better in that, and he understands that. It goes like this and I think if he does that, he’s going to make a major step forward.”

Comparing Carleton to Daley Blind, the Netherlands international he worked with during his tenure at Ajax Amsterdam, De Boer suggested that enhanced nutrition and strength training will also help Carleton resume his career’s progress.

“When you are ready, you have to go into the gym and also nutrition and everything,” he said. “Some people are late starters in that … he has to deal with that, I think, and if he does that well, he has a bright future here.”

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