On Saturday, amidst the 2nd-straight ATL UTD victory and yet another Josef Martinez hat trick, the club also experienced a historic milestone. 17-year-old Andrew Carleton recorded his first career MLS assist, making him the first-ever Homegrown player for the club to do so.
After making his MLS debut last season in a single appearance, he’s now played three matches in a row in 2018 coming on as a sub. Most recently, he entered the Vancouver game in the 78th minute, swapping in for forward Tito Villalba, who Carleton says has mastered the art of movement up front.
“He’s really good at making those runs in behind and that’s something I try to learn off of him,” said Carleton. “He’s really good at timing those runs through [and] behind the defense and so I was just coming in, since I’m not as athletic as him, trying to use my skill and combination plays to get behind the defense.”
And it didn’t take long for him to make an impact. Carleton found a pocket of space at the edge of the area, received a pass from Julian Gressel and already knew where he was looking next. After two quick touches, the Homegrown served a ball to the back post, perfectly picking out Martinez for the Venezuelan to complete his hat trick with a diving header.
While it was a special moment to celebrate and a night to remember, every moment’s been a learning process for Carleton, from signing his contract, to entering his first preseason with the team, through year one and even to every minute he was on the field on Saturday.
“For me, I gave the ball away on top of the box and two seconds later the ball was in our goal. I was like, ‘I got to go get this back real quick,’” admitted Carleton. “They almost made it 3-2 after that so I was like, ‘We’ve got to put this game to bed real quick.’ So yeah, there was a little bit of urgency and mostly just playing the flow of the game, it’s just what the game called for. It worked out well.”
“I’m happy for him,” said Martinez. “He’s a player who’s doing things well. He’s got a lot of room to grow but he just has to keep doing things the way he [has been]. With his head in the right spot [as he is] working for his place on the team, which I think he is earning.”
As he develops as a young professional, the hard work Carleton has put on the field for both club and country continues to pay off. This week he’s been called into the U.S. U-20 squad for the first time as they head to Spain for matches against France and Atletico Madrid.
“It’s always an honor to play for your country. We’ve got a couple of weeks off – from Atlanta United at least. Thankfully, unlike last year, I won’t be missing any first team games, which will be nice. We’ll see how it goes. I’m excited to play for the [U-20 national team].”
After the international break, Carleton and the Atlanta United squad with seek their third-straight win as they travel up North to face Minnesota on March 31st. The team will then return to the ATL for their next home match on April 7th against 2018 expansion side LAFC. Tickets for that match are still available, so make sure you secure your seat here.