Atlanta United lets Carleton go, keeps Bello

Atlanta United is moving on from several players, including first Homegrown signing Andrew Carleton and team co-captain Jeff Larentowicz.

The team announced Tuesday that it declined contract options on several players, such as Carleton’s, or contracts expired, such as Larentowicz’s. It also announced that it exercised options on fullback George Bello, midfielder Jon Gallagher, defender Franco Escobar and midfielder Mo Adams.

In addition to Carleton, the team also declined the option or allowed the contract to expire on striker Erick Torres, striker Lagos Kunga (another Homegrown signing), fullback Edgar Castillo, defender Laurence Wyke, striker J.J. Williams, midfielder Manuel Castro and goalkeeper Brendan Moore. Larentowicz’s contract expired. Vice president Carlos Bocanegra said the team won’t try to re-sign him. He will become a free agent. Torres also will become a free agent. Castillo, Castro, Kunga, Moore, Williams and Wyke are available through the MLS re-entry process. Carleton will go on end-of-year waivers.

Of that group, Torres and Moore will still participate in the Champions League game against Club America on Dec. 15 or Dec. 16 in Orlando, Fla. The remaining players won’t.

Bello, an 18-year-old resident of Douglasville, had a breakout season with 20 appearances that included one goal and one assist.

Gallagher, in his first action with the first team since he was drafted in 2018, scored four goals in 16 appearances.

Escobar, 25, had 16 appearances as a fullback or centerback.

Adams, 24, had 13 appearances in his first consistent action for the team since he was acquired in a trade with Chicago last season.

Carleton arguably is the biggest name on the list and an example of the hit-or-miss nature of signing young players. A native of Powder Springs, Carleton was considered a can’t-miss prospect as a midfielder, one courted by teams in Europe. But Atlanta United secured his signing as a 15-year-old in June 2016. The signing included him appearing in a video of the moment that included team owner Arthur Blank.

That probably was the highlight of his time with the team.

Carleton made one appearance in 2017 followed by seven more in 2018. He was suspended from team activities before the MLS Cup and the subsequent parade for a breach of team rules that occurred the day before the victory over Portland.

The maturity issues continued the next season when Carleton forgot his passport before the team flew to Toronto for a game. Then manager Frank de Boer said that he needed to improve his professionalism. A few weeks later, de Boer said that Carleton was improving. Carleton has denied that he forgot his passport.

Carleton was sent on a season-long loan to Indy Eleven in USL this season. He made 14 appearances and scored one goal. Carleton’s career with Atlanta United ends with 11 appearances and one assist in 229 minutes of league games.

Torres signed as injury replacement for Josef Martinez. Torres scored one goal in 13 appearances, totaling 492 minutes.

Larentowicz, 37, re-signed with Atlanta United each of the past two seasons. He made 19 appearances this season and scored two goals.

Kunga, who signed before the 2018 season, never appeared for Atlanta United in a league game. He has spent the past two seasons on loan with different teams in USL.

Castillo, 33 and signed before the 2020 season, made four appearances.

Wyke, 24, made seven appearances, including two starts, this season. He was signed from Atlanta United 2 before the season.

Williams’ line as an Atlanta United player is a total of six minutes and one red card earned in the MLS tournament in Orlando.

Moore never appeared for the team in a league game.

Atlanta United’s roster after Tuesday’s moves:

Goalkeepers (2): Brad Guzan, Alec Kann

Defenders (8): George Bello, George Campbell, Franco Escobar, Brooks Lennon, Fernando Meza, Efrain Morales*, Miles Robinson, Anton Walkes.

Midfielders (10): Mo Adams, Ezequiel Barco, Jürgen Damm, Jon Gallagher, Emerson Hyndman, Marcelino Moreno, Jake Mulraney, Eric Remedi, Matheus Rossetto, Tyler Wolff.

Forwards (3): Adam Jahn, Erik Lopez*, Josef Martinez

* - joins First Team effective Jan. 1