Atlanta United players recap World Cup qualifying

Atlanta United players Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin are back from helping the U.S. Under-17 national team qualify for the World Cup and said they are better for the experience.

The team was defeated by Mexico in the CONCACAF tournament finals, 5-4 on penalty kicks after “El Tri” tied the score at 1-1 in the 92nd minute in Panama City, Panama. The U.S. had already qualified the World Cup, which will be held Oct. 6-28 in India, by finishing atop its group with a 6-2 win over Cuba. The U.S. went 5-0-1 in the tournament.

“It was something we’ve been working toward for like 2 1/2 years,” said Goslin, a 16-year-old native of Locust Grove. “To be there working and competing, it was just great. It was disappointing not to win the finals, but it was great to qualify.”

Carleton, a 16-year-old native of Powder Springs, scored two goals in the tournament. The first in the 39th minute against Cuba was one of the better goals you will see.

The U.S. gained control of the ball near its own penalty box. A long pass down the middle of the field was backheeled toward Carleton. The ball bounced off a Cuban defender to a U.S. player, who one-timed another pass through the center of Cuba’s defense to Carleton, who had kept running.

He caught up to the pass, took two touches and saw goalkeeper Danny Echeverria coming off his line. Carleton chipped the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net to give his team a 2-0 lead.

“I knew if I could get it up high enough it would come back down because it was kind of far out,” Carleton said. “I just let it go. (There was a) Little bit luck on the turf because it was bobbling. It made it a little bit easier.”

His second came in the finals and also featured a nice bit of skill.

With the score tied at 0-0 in the 62nd minute, Mexico goalkeeper Cesar Lopez mis-hit a clearance as Carleton jogged toward him.

The ball looped into the air about 30 yards from goal. Tim Weah outjumped Luis Olivas and headed the ball back toward Mexico’s goal.

After checking to make sure he was onside, Carleton let the ball bounce once and, with his back to his goal, hit a right-footed volley from 18 yards into the goal’s opposite lower corner.

“It was an awesome feeling to score in the final,” he said.

Goslin came closest to scoring when his right-footed shot hit the left post in the 90th minute against Mexico. Atlanta United academy player Zyen Jones scored for the U.S. in an earlier group-stage game against El Salvador.

“Anytime you get to play for your country is a blessing and to wear the crest and all and to make it to the final was a great experience,” Carleton said. “We came up just a little bit short but it will be great motivation going into the World Cup.”

The players said they expect to remain with Atlanta United for the next few weeks until the next domestic camp is called.

They said they both just want to get back into the rhythms of the teams after having been gone for more for several weeks.

Though neither player has to feature in a regular-season game for Atlanta United, both said lessons they have learned during training helped them during the qualifying games.

Carleton noted how training and competing with players who have been in some of the world’s best leagues helped prepare him for the speed and physicality of qualifying.

“It gets you ready for anything they can throw at you,” he said.

Goslin said he applied the composure that he’s developing from training alongside his Atlanta United teammates.

“Focus on what you need to do what your job is,” he said.