Carleton pleased with Atlanta United debut

Atlanta’s Andrew Carleton tries to avoid Houston Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley in Saturday’s 4-1 win at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. (Miguel Martinez / Mundo Hispanico)
Atlanta’s Andrew Carleton tries to avoid Houston Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley in Saturday’s 4-1 win at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. (Miguel Martinez / Mundo Hispanico)

Andrew Carleton, 16 years old and Atlanta United's first Homegrown Player signing, made his professional debut when he came in for Miguel Almiron in the 86<sup>th</sup> minute of Saturday's 4-1 win over Houston at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“It was unbelievable,” Carleton, a winger and native of Powder Springs, said. “It was a dream come true to be able to make my first MLS appearance and to be able to just get on the field for a few minutes. It was an unbelievable feeling. I have been dreaming about this moment since I first started playing soccer.”

With his parents and brothers watching, Carleton’s best moment came when he received the ball near the middle of the field and tried to outrun DaMarcus Beasley, who made his professional debut in 2000, the same year Carleton was born. Beasley, who has more than 120 appearances for the U.S. national team, chased Carleton down, but it did create a memory.

Carleton, who will turn 17 on June 22, said he can remember when he was 8 or 9 years old travelling to Nashville to watch Beasley and the U.S. play Trinidad and Tobago.

“It’s pretty crazy to play somebody after watching that,” he said.

Carleton isn’t the youngest player to appear in MLS. Freddy Adu remains the youngest at 14 years, 306 days when he debuted on April 3, 2004.

Carleton he will keep his jersey as a memento, take what he learned and apply to it next his appearance.

“He has enormous potential,” teammate Yamil Asad said. “His future depends upon him. We are going to try our best to keep giving him confidence.”

Atlanta United’s supporters have been clamoring to see Carleton for most of the season, an expectation that was heightened after he made two solid performances in preseason games.

Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said he inserted Carleton for two reasons: he wanted to give Miguel Almiron, who scored three goals, a chance to receive applause, and he wanted to give Carleton a debut in a no-pressure situation.

Almiron said he tried to give Carleton a blessing as the two hugged just before Carleton stepped onto the field. Almiron laughed and said he’s not sure Carleton understood him.

“Now, he is debuted at 16 years of age and there is less of a demand and less pressure on him for that,” Martino said.

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