MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United fans waited 25 days to see the Five Stripes return to MLS action, but the fanbase stirred well before the ball was ever kicked when they saw news about Andrew Carleton’s absence from the team just moments after the squad was announced.
#ATLUTD has a 6-man bench tonight b/c Carleton didn't have his passport when he met the team for the trip.— Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC) June 26, 2019
for once, the team didn't travel with 19 players, which is rare.
The act left Frank de Boer with no choice but to send Carleton to play with Atlanta United 2 as the team travels to Washington D.C. to take on Loudon County Friday night.
“It's why he's not with the first team right now,” De Boer said bluntly in a press conference Friday afternoon. “He's joining the USL team right now... I have no worries about his quality, but more the professional side.”
It’s not the first time Carleton’s MLS coaches have talked about the need for the Atlanta United homegrown — once a hopeful prospect leading the U.S. youth national teams — to improve his professionalism. De Boer and former head coach Tata Martino have both discussed the issue with the press in the past, but never before have Carleton’s acts been more public and obvious. Martino famously suspended Carleton from the team for Atlanta United’s MLS Cup Final win last season, as well as the succeeding victory parade.
“You have a responsibility for yourself, but especially for your teammates and for the club itself. That you didn't show — there are consequences for that,” said De Boer. “But the first consequence is that he's not with the first team.
“He has to understand that this is not acceptable,” De Boer added. “Those kinds of things, you have influence on. And he doesn't understand right now that that's something he has to learn and take that responsibility. Sometimes you have to learn it the hard way. Hopefully he understands it.”
Michael Parkhurst sympathized with Carleton’s most recent blunder. The veteran center back and team captain said that he temporarily lost his passport during his rookie year, but called various airports, found it, and had it shipped to him overnight so he could join his then-New England Revolution teammates on a trip to Ecuador.
“I see how it's possible. It almost happened to me,” said Parkhurst. “That being said, myself and other guys have had conversations with Andy — and all the younger guys — making sure they understand that time goes quick.
“We all want the best for Andy. We hope that he makes the best of his opportunities and doesn't take them for granted because you never know when the last one comes. Hopefully it doesn't come for Andy. Hopefully he plays for another 15, 20 years. But the reality is some guys don't.”
The good news for Carleton is de Boer isn’t dismissing him completely, saying that forgiveness is necessary.
“Sometimes you have to learn it the hard way,” said De Boer. “Hopefully he understands it.”