“I don’t like the (term) designated player, because I think all of us as teammates are equal,” the Paraguayan said during post-match media availability.
It’s certainly a terrific perspective to have for the 23-year-old. But he, Tito Villalba and Josef Martinez have certainly been playing at a high level just about every time they’re on the field. That run continued as the trio were responsible for each of Atlanta’s goals this evening. For Almiron, it was his team high eighth of the season, while Villalba scored his sixth and Martinez scored for the second straight night, giving him seven goals in six matches across all competitions.
Martinez, whose domestic career has taken him to Switzerland, his homeland of Venezuela, and, most recently, Torino in Italy’s Serie A before landing in MLS, relishes the opportunity to be a member of the club.
“I’m here with a group of guys who want to do something very important,” he said. “I’m very happy to be here and proud to be a part of this team.”
The first few minutes featured some suspect passing and mistimed touches from the backline and midfield as Crew SC nearly found the match’s first goal. It was Atlanta drawing first blood, though, on terrific pressure by Yamil Asad in the attacking third. Asad dispossessed his man and found Villalba, who ran in unmarked and fired it past a sprawling Zack Steffen as Atlanta opened the scoring in the 16th minute.
But Columbus leveled it in the 28th on some messy possession by Atlanta. Michael Parkhurst deflected it to the feet of Federico Higuain, who converted the chance to level the scoring.
Atlanta opened the second half as the better team but weren’t able to get that second goal and pull ahead. It remained 1-1 until the 67th minute, when Almiron pulled this brilliant bit of play out of his hat that was started by a big-time takeaway by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
“In the first half, we had some chances that we weren’t able to convert,” Almiron said. “In the second half...I was a little fortunate (on my goal). It’s not like I tried to perfectly place it in that spot. I was a little lucky and was happy it went in.”
Columbus certainly had its opportunities to level it, but in the 88th minute, a familiar face was there to squash any chance of a Crew SC comeback.
“I’m happy with scoring the goal today,” Martinez said. “After the goal, I was a little emotional because before I came on (in the 62nd minute) I heard all the fans applauding me and chanting my name. We knew this was a really important game especially with all these games coming up. Hopefully we can keep this streak going.”
The win made it three in a row at Bobby Dodd Stadium, with the team having scored 10 goals in that span. It broke a two-game losing streak in league play and, at the moment, puts Atlanta back above the red line. They stand a point clear of the New England Revolution - who lost to the Chicago Fire this evening - and the New York Red Bulls pending RBNY’s result against the Philadelphia Union tomorrow.
“When you play a good opponent like Columbus, they force you into making some mistakes,” Tata Martino said afterwards. “I think our mistakes today were because Columbus was a good team and they forced us into (making) those.
“After Tito Villalba’s goal, we relaxed a little bit and settled into the game. It allowed us to do what we wanted to do.”
Atlanta head back on the road on Wednesday against D.C. United for a 7pm kickoff at RFK Stadium. They follow that with another Saturday night match against the Colorado Rapids at Bobby Dodd Stadium in search of its fourth straight home victory.