Photo courtesy of Jacob Sokol
After experiencing two ankle sprains his senior season at Penn State, Andrew Privett wasn’t sure a professional career was in the cards. He could have decided against entering the MLS SuperDraft since it wasn’t a guarantee he’d be picked. He could be using his supply chain management degree that he obtained at Penn State, working in the world of business. Sometimes the faraway dream becomes reality.
Privett entered last year’s MLS SuperDraft to be selected 69th overall by Charlotte FC. This last month he played in the Leagues Cup, watched by millions, eventually facing arguably the world’s greatest player, Lionel Messi. When asked if he thought this experience was possible even a year ago, Privett said, “No shot. I never thought it would happen in my career, let alone my sixth game professionally. It’s a dream come true. It’s an experience for a lifetime.”
From Maryland to the SuperDraft
Photo courtesy of Jacob Sokol
Growing up in Maryland, Privett first began kicking a ball with neighborhood kids around age four. He’d transition to a youth team where he played right back. He would quickly move to midfield where he was most comfortable while playing club soccer.
Club soccer with Baltimore Bays would turn him into a Chelsea fan since their jerseys were similar. However, it was playing for the Baltimore Celtics that he found true success and started to believe in a professional career for the first time. In 2017 and 2018, the Baltimore Celtics would win back-to-back national championships in the U.S. Youth Soccer National League. Privett was on the Top Drawer Soccer Fall High School All-American Watch List and beginning to draw attention from Division One colleges.
Maryland was a top choice for Privett but unfortunately, they never approached him. Georgetown seemed to be a likely option for a while but ultimately it didn’t work out. When he had an opportunity to visit Penn State that’s when he knew where he would spend the next four years. From teammates and coaches to training facilities, Penn State had everything Privett hoped for.
Privett had solid freshman and sophomore seasons, appearing in every game and scoring a few goals. He would elevate his game his junior year where he was arguably the best midfielder in Big 10 soccer. Edging out Maryland’s Ben Bender, Privett would be the top goal scorer in the conference with nine in 2021. Penn State would also take home the Big 10 tournament for the first time since 2005 that year.
Unfortunately, Privett’s senior season wouldn’t go to plan. He would sprain his ankle twice and would have trouble finding form and regular appearances in the lineup. He wasn’t even sure he would enter the SuperDraft but ultimately did. When talking with his father about which team he hoped to end up on he leaned to Charlotte FC. When Charlotte eventually selected him in the 3rd round he couldn’t have been happier.
From age four to playing professionally, Privett had two main figures he felt supported by. Kim and Shane Privett, Andrew’s parents, were always there, and still are. “My parents just supported me through the whole process, all the ups and downs. They were always there for me. They were my number one fans and would come to almost every game.”
While his parents still live in Maryland, they also come to nearly every Charlotte FC game. “They try to come for every game they can. They’re hitting most honestly.” With Privett’s recent performances, his fan base is bound to expand well past his original and best two.
Breaking into the Charlotte FC squad
Photo courtesy of Jacob Sokol
Privett’s first-ever minutes for Charlotte FC went relatively unnoticed. On April 25th, In the third round of this year’s U.S. Open Cup, Charlotte took on Tormenta FC. When the team was up 2-0 in the 64th minute, Privett would sub out Brandt Bronico to play as a central midfielder. Charlotte would dominate the match, winning 4-1. Privett helped control the game and had an attacking presence, getting in and around Tormenta's penalty area throughout his time on the pitch. It would be a while before Privett would reappear in a new role.
A few months later, on July 15th, Charlotte played away to CF Montréal. Privett was told before the match he should expect to get some minutes, most likely as a late second-half sub. Due to an early injury to center back Guzmán Corujo, Privett was brought in in the 37th minute when the team was 2-0 down.
This may have come as a surprise to some fans, seeing the relatively unknown player coming on in a new position. However, this was something Privett and Head Coach, Christian Lattanzio, had been preparing for. Although Charlotte ended up losing 2-0, Privett held a shutout for the minutes he was on the pitch. He earned his spot as the team was about to head into the Leagues Cup.
Although Privett was playing center back, when the team was attacking he would move into the midfield to help with distribution. Because of his familiarity with being a midfielder, this was a natural fit for him. “Transitioning felt very natural to me. It fit like a glove. I’ve enjoyed it. Now I’m in that hybrid role where I can play center back and then in possession, I can move to a defensive midfielder.”
Privett was exceptional at distribution throughout the tournament and very consistent in his defensive duties. Two matches would end up going to penalty kicks, requiring extreme focus from defenders to see the games out and deny last-minute goals. The second of the two games which went to penalty kicks would come in the knockout stages against Cruz Azul. With goals tied at 3 after the first five shot-takers, Privett would step up and score. Cruz Azul would then be denied by keeper, Kristijan Kahlina, to send Charlotte on to face Houston Dynamo.
Houston would be defeated by their own mistake, scoring a freak own goal while the game was tied 1-1 in the 81st minute. Privett would be key in his hybrid role during this game, connecting 48 passes throughout. Charlotte FC was on to the Quarterfinals where Privett would defend against Inter Miami and Messi. Unfortunately for Privett, Miami has been unbeatable since the addition of their new designated players. Charlotte would fall 4-0, but Privett still provided good passes, connecting 44 times.
Charlotte returned to MLS play after a 15-day break. The rest must have done the team some good as they would arguably have their best performance of the year against Western Conference heavyweight, LAFC. Charlotte would dominate possession with 64% and Privett did more than his part, providing 70 completed passes with an accuracy of nearly 90%. He also typically played the ball forward, propelling the attack. The team would win 2-1, and besides a few small lapses late in the match, Privett did his part to keep the scoreline low.
The last two matches had unfortunate finales for Charlotte FC. Privett did his part to defend well, but Orlando City and Nashville SC would each earn a tie in the last few minutes of the match due to lapses in communication between Nathan Byrne and Kristijan Kahlina. Privett did everything he could each game to earn a clean sheet, but ultimately it's a team sport.
For the foreseeable future expect to see Privett at center back. Corujo is likely to return in the coming weeks, but that transition could take a while as he returns to full fitness. Privett has proven his worth and it’s possible, even if Corujo takes his spot back, that he could find minutes in other areas due to his versatility.
Charlotte FC has improved since entering the Leagues Cup, and that can be attributed in part to Privett. The team has faced many injury problems so a player who can step up in the defensive line is vital as Charlotte continues to battle for a playoff position down the stretch.