skip navigation

Eastern Conf. Notebook — Carleton Keeps Cool for Atlanta

By CHRIS HOCKMAN - chris.hockman@uslsoccer.com, 04/23/18, 9:12AM EDT

Share

Rowdies produce perfect response; Fury FC pleased to pick up first point


Photo courtesy Karl L. Moore / ATL UTD 2

GWINNETT, Ga. – While both ATL UTD 2 and Louisville City FC entering Saturday night’s game at Coolray Field on Saturday undefeated this season, the differences between the two in experience and previous performances meant it certainly served as a litmus test for the hosts.

What it produced was a tight match that saw Atlanta ride its luck at times, but still come away with a 1-1 draw thanks to U.S. U20 international Andrew Carleton’s stoppage-time penalty kick.

“After the end, you’re fairly pleased with a point. But I thought obviously missing the penalty, and I thought we had a few good chances,” said Atlanta midfielder Oliver Shannon. “But they’re a really good team and we didn’t play our best tonight. We’ll take a point, but we want to improve and take three on Tuesday. Obviously, such a late goal you’re pleased with that right now.”

Carleton’s equalizer, his first goal in the professional ranks made up for an earlier missed penalty that would have put the hosts ahead early in the second half. At just 17 years old, Carleton showed incredible professionalism to not get his head down after his missed penalty, immediately stepping up when a second chance presented itself after he had been felled in the penalty area in the final minute before dispatching the penalty when all the pressure was on his young shoulders.

“Andrew has the ability to be a difference maker and so he missed one [penalty kick] and in the end he was able to make the difference and have the confidence to step up take the second one which I think is one thing in the club we love about him,” said Atlanta Head Coach Scott Donnelly. “But Andrew also knows he can play so much better. He was a little bit short of some sharpness. That’s an honest assessment of it. [He's a] very good player who can make the difference, but it wasn’t his top performance tonight. Ultimately, when it’s a team like the team we played against tonight, this is part of the process for what we’re doing and what he’s doing as a young professional.”

ATL UTD 2 has a quick turnaround, returning to Coolray Field on Tuesday when it hosts the Charleston Battery. With the Battery also coming in off short rest after Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Penn FC, Donnelly was already looking forward to what will be another measuring-stick game against a regional rival.

“Physically, we do our recovery, we do the same process we always do,” said Donnelly. “Psychologically, you wipe the slate and get another chance to go back to Coolray and play in front of the fans against another experienced team in Charleston Battery.”

ROWDIES PRODUCE RIGHT RESPONSE: The Tampa Bay Rowdies sent a strong statement to the rest of the league on Saturday night after its 2-0 win against Real Monarchs SLC at Al Lang Stadium. The result ended the Monarchs perfect start to the season and showed the Rowdies resilience coming just one week after a 5-0 loss to New York Red Bulls II. That loss saw Rowdies Stuart Campbell make three changes to his starting 11, but that was less about panic and more about roster management.

“I’ve made changes after we’ve won games because I think we’ve got a really good squad with a lot of players that deserve to be starting games,” said Campbell. “We’ve spoken since day one of preseason about the quality of our roster. Win, lose or draw, I’ve got the luxury of making changes.”

It was a tight match throughout, but one that produced some thrilling moments between two of the strongest sides in the league which required a strong performance from the Rowdies to take the victory.

“They are far and away the best team we’ve played so far,” said Campbell. “That’s no disrespect to any of the other teams we’ve come up against so far, but they’re an excellent team. It was a very good performance by us and we had to be at our very, very best to get these three points.”

That the Rowdies rose above was in part thanks to forward Georgi Hristov, whose 57th goal for the club gave the hosts a valuable two-goal cushion with 20 minutes to go. The goal was also historic as it equalled the Rowdies' all-time record, held by original Rowdies great Derek Smethurst.

“I’m happy. First, I want to dedicate this goal and this win to David [Najem], who was injured a week ago. This is for him,” said Hristov. “I’m happy for the win and I’m happy that I tied the record. It was never my big goal, but when you get close, you want to beat it of course. Most importantly, I’m really happy with the way we played against a very, very good team. They had four wins in four games and we played better than them tonight.”

The night's other notable performance in the match was from defender Kyle Curinga, a native of Clearwater, just 20 miles from Al Lang Stadium, who made his debut for his new club against a Monarchs side he made 27 appearances for a season ago. Curinga made three interceptions and completed 74.4 percent of his passes to help curtail his former teammates pursuit of a positive result.

“I thought he [Curinga] was great from the offset. I know it sounds crazy, but I made a conscious decision to keep my distance from him a little bit this week because he’s a local kid, this was his first start and I knew he would be feeling a little bit more anxious than he would playing against another team because it was his old club,” said Campbell. “I just wanted to let him process the week ahead of him coming into the game on Saturday. He played really, really well, which we knew he would. He’s a good player.”

Curinga was certainly popular before the match, to such an extent with family and friends excited to see him make his debut for his hometown club that he had to turn his phone off.

“You can’t write it up any better,” said Curinga. “I felt a lot of emotions all day and I got texts left, right and center from friends, family, teammates, ex-teammates. I was thinking about that the whole time. About 40 minutes before the game, I shut my phone off, focused and just tried to do my job. We got the result and that’s the most important thing.”

CONSISTENCY COMING FOR OTTAWA: After a rough start to the season, Ottawa Fury FC picked up its first point of the season in a 1-1 draw with North Carolina FC at TD Place on Saturday afternoon. The result was a pleasing one in the club's home opener as Ottawa has been seeking to turn things around after three consecutive defeats to start the season.

“I think this reflects the foundation we are trying to build here. When we speak about culture, this is part of the culture,” said Ottawa Head Coach Nikola Popovic. “The message was very clear; no matter what, everyone had to give their very best. I think it’s coming, we are getting a little more consistency, but I think we are still very far from how I want this team to play.”

Fury FC will continue its homestand after Saturday's performance next week, with its next two matches at home. The late goal that leveled North Carolina's impressive opener helped boost confidence ahead of meetings with two side that reached the postseason for the past two years in FC Cincinnati (April 28) and New York Red Bulls II (May 2).

For defender Colin Falvey, who returned to the club this offseason after a stint with Indy Eleven over the past two seasons, the day proved a memorable one.

“There were plenty of flashbacks and plenty of stuff going my head on the way out. It was nice to get back out there and representing the city again,” said Falvey. “The fans have been fantastic to me ever since the first day I came to Canada. Just disappointed we didn’t get the three points, but it was a positive performance.”

The goal came in dramatic fashion with midfielder Cristian Portilla scoring in the 86th minute with an Olimpico corner. Portilla sent the crowd wild with the goal instantly running to the bench to celebrate the vital goal with the rest of his team, a goal which could well spur Fury FC on.

“I’m really excited to score the goal,” said Portilla. “Maybe the goal came too late – if we had scored [earlier], and I think we had a chance to win the game. We moved the ball quick, we felt good on the field. We are a really good team, so we have to keep going.”

ATL UTD 2 PLEASED WITH DRAW: When two undefeated teams did battle at Coolray Field on Saturday a tight match was always bound to happen, and that proved to be the case all the way to the final whistle as ATL UTD 2 managed to come from behind to seal a 1-1 draw with Louisville City FC.

“After the end, you’re fairly pleased with a point. But I thought obviously missing the penalty, and I thought we had a few good chances,” said midfielder Oliver Shannon. “But they’re a really good team and we didn’t play our best tonight. We’ll take a point but we want to improve and take three on Tuesday. Obviously, such a late goal you’re pleased with that right now.”

Midfielder Andrew Carleton scored the equalizer, his first professional goal, with his stoppage-time penalty, making up for an earlier missed penalty. At just 17 years-old Carleton showed incredible professionalism to not get his head down after his missed penalty, immediately stepping up when a second chance presented itself, dispatching the penalty when all the pressure was on his young shoulders.

“Andrew [Carleton] has the ability to be a difference maker and so he missed one (penalty kick) and in the end he was able to make the difference and have the confidence to step up take the second one which I think is one thing in the club we love about him,” said Head Coach Scott Donnelly. “But Andrew [Carleton] also knows he can play so much better. He was a little bit short of some sharpness. That’s an honest assessment of it. [He's a] very good player who can make the difference, but it wasn’t his top performance tonight. Ultimately, when it’s a team like the team we played against tonight, this is part of the process for what we’re doing and what he’s doing as a young professional.”

ATL UTD 2 has a quick turnaround, returning to Coolray Field on Tuesday when it hosts the Charleston Battery on Tuesday, requiring a quick recovery with little opportunity for training before the match.

“Physically, we do our recovery, we do the same process we always do. Psychologically, you wipe the slate and get another chance to go back to Coolray and play in front of the fans against another experienced team in Charleston Battery,” said Donnelly.

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos

  • Somos Familia – The Lucero Family

  • By USLChampionship.com Staff 01/25/2021, 8:20pm EST
  • New Mexico United’s short documentary follows family whose passionate fandom brought them to Colorado Springs in 2020 season.
  • Read More