ATLANTA — Andrew Carleton is not on the United States roster for this month’s Under-20 World Cup. U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos announced his 21-player squad Friday morning.
Manager Frank de Boer regularly included Carleton in Atlanta United’s game-day squads earlier this season, though the 18-year-old saw limited minutes. In recent weeks, Carleton shifted his focus to a first-11 role with Atlanta United 2, the club’s USL affiliate, in order to stay in game shape for a potential World Cup call-up.
In April, Ramos told Pro Soccer USA he expected Carleton to be among the 25-to-28 players in contention to make the team. Ramos gushed about the Powder Springs, Ga., native and described him as the sort of attacking talent that is rarely seen among young Americans. However, competing in a U.S. under-20 player pool that is deep in quality up front, Carleton wound up on the wrong side of the cut line.
“I think where he separates himself from a lot of other players is his technical ability, his way to receive the ball, the ease that he has to turn with a man on his back,” Ramos said last month. “You need really good technique to be able to turn when somebody’s pressuring you, and he has that. There’s not a lot of players that have that.”
Carleton declined to comment on Ramos’ decision.
Atlanta manager Frank de Boer said Friday fans and pundits should not overlook the fact that Carleton still is physically growing. De Boer also explained Atlanta’s first Homegrown signing must improve as a professional.
“He’s young,” de Boer said, “and there are a lot of things that you think, ‘hey, that’s tempting to do,’ distractions. … Those kind of things. You see it everywhere. He’s an Atlanta United first-team player, and you get a lot of attention, but you have to resist that sometimes. I think he can do better in that, and he understands that. … I think if he does that, he’s going to make a major step forward.”
Stephen Glass, head coach of Atlanta United 2, the club’s USL affiliate, has worked with Carleton extensively this season. Glass put a positive spin on this missed opportunity.
“For Andrew, personally, I’m sure he will be disappointed,” Glass said. “We are as a club. We knew he could go and affect [the tournament]. But we don’t control who selects our players. We can only try to get them prepared and be ready for it. Number one thing is it’s a motivation for Andrew to show that in this period, when he’s going to play for us, hopefully get some time with the first team as well, that he should have been at a World Cup. And that’s on Andrew to try to take that and grasp that and go improve it.”
Three players in the Atlanta organization will participate in the tournament in Poland. Ezequiel Barco, who has two Major League Soccer Player of the Week honors this season, recently joined the Argentina U-20 team. Guillermo Benitez and Wesly Decas, defenders with Atlanta United 2, received call-ups from Panama and Honduras, respectively.
The U-20 World Cup kicks off May 25 and runs through June 16. The Americans open their campaign with a Group D game against Nigeria on Monday, May 27, at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Updated with comments from Frank de Boer and Stephen Glass.