Atlanta United is back to winning ways after finally breaking through the Colorado Rapid’s deep defensive line – by way of yet another Josef Martinez wondergoal – in the 67th minute of Saturday’s 1-0 win at Bobby Dodd Stadium. It’s Atlanta United’s 4th straight home victory. While the team is currently struggling to find answers away from the friendly confines of Bobby Dodd Stadium, at least the Five Stripes are turning Historic Grant Field into a fortress. Here’s what we learned from Saturday night’s win:
Josef Martinez is a Targaryen
It’s been clear to anyone who has watched him this season that Josef Martinez clearly has something magical about him. This is easily identified through the extraordinary goals he scores seemingly every game he plays. Saturday, we finally discovered the power source that allows him to seemingly defy the bounds of human properties. He’s a Targaryen. He cannot be burned, and in fact, his spirit is fueled by torching opposition defenses. Martinez’s speed and ruthlessness in front of net is something otherworldly. Josef Martinez wears a golden crown upon his head, and the only logical next step for the Venezuelan striker is world domination.
Anton Walkes at right back was a good choice
Myself and just about every other Atlanta United fan I know clamored for Tyrone Mears to be rotated this weekend after he clearly was not up to the task midweek in the nation’s capital. Tata Martino calmed all of our worries about Mears’s apparent stranglehold on the right back position Saturday by inserting SOMEONE ELSE PLEASE GOD ANYONE ELSE. Tata’s choice happened to be Anton Walkes – an unexpected name considering his natural position of center back. Walkes didn’t have a perfect game, but his performance made it painfully clear how much the Five Stripes have been lacking in this part of the pitch for most of the season. Walkes, a robust-bodied center back, charged up and down the touchline and displayed the energy and power that is so useful in that position. Sure, his touch wasn’t always perfect and his final ball is lacking. But he still offered far more than we’ve seen out of Mears in… ever? Okay, maybe I’m suffering from recency bias, but still. I want to see more of Walkes at right back.
Atlanta gets no benefit of the doubt from referees
Miguel Almiron finally lost his s*** Saturday night on the match referee Silviu Petrescu, and I don’t blame him one bit. In fact, I applaud him. Someone has to stand up for what is right and just in this world. Twice, Colorado Rapids players slide tackled Atlanta United players 1) from behind 2) high, and the cherry on top, 3) with a scissoring motion. Oh, and on both occasions, the player wasn’t even close to playing the ball. Both times, the players received only a yellow card.
I’m not angry about this because Atlanta should have had an advantage in the game – Atlanta showed they didn’t need one. I’m angry because one of these days, one of our players is going to get seriously hurt. It’s a matter of player safety, plain and simple. Miguel Almiron and Yamil Asad don’t deserve to die just because they make defenders look silly and they get mad about it. I’m not against physical play, but when it’s endangering the game’s best players, it’s a problem.
Brandon Vazquez is a legit winger
For the third time this season, Brandon Vazquez has entered the game playing on the right wing, and for the third time, he’s impressed me. Surprisingly so. I will hold my hands up and admit that I was wrong about the 19-year old on this one. After his first good appearance, I said “Meh, the opposition was terrible.” After his second impressive showing, I said, “Meh, one decent game.” Now I’m a believer. Maybe not full time, but he can certainly DO A JOB on the right flank when needed. He provided the assist for Josef Martinez with a [Alan Green voice] CLEVER… VERY CLEVER turn and cutback to put the ball in a place where Martinez could gather, perform magic, and finish.
Speaking of the right wing, is Tito Villalba’s spot in question? He had some brief signs of life Saturday night, but in the end, provided little to nothing for the team going forward. Unfortunately, this feels like a common refrain. Gressel has certainly shown brightly on the wing at times this season, and I’m an advocate for him to start there. Josef Martinez’s high work rate means he’s unlikely to go the full 90 minutes too often this season, so who better to come in and run at a tired back line than a fresh Tito Villalba? I think Tata would be CLEVER… VERY CLEVER to make such a move.