Atlanta United finally won on the road, defeating Columbus Crew 2 to 0. Tito Villalba’s brace lifted Atlanta to their first road when in over two months. Not only did they score goals but the team played great overall defense for 90 minutes. The win propelled Atlanta over Columbus in the standings into fifth place. Here are three things we learned from the win.
Anton Walkes is the real deal
The young defender showed poise and confidence on the ball and a tough road environment. This is now two straight solid performances on the back line for the loanee from Spurs. Tyrone Mears has struggled over the past month and now there appears to be a real question as to who the first-choice right back is for Tata Martino.
Walkes does have a tendency to lose his positioning from time to time, but his aggressiveness on defense has been noticeable. He adds a physical elements on the right flank that Mears doesn’t. Walkes has also shown a knack for holding onto the ball well in tight spaces and making good decisions for when to clear, something Atlanta’s back line has lacked this season. It remains to be seen if Walkes will be the long term solution at right back this season, but it’s clear that he’s more than capable of doing the job if he is.
The defense continues to gel
The backline of Atlanta continue to improve each week and Saturday’s 2-0 win marked a second consecutive clean sheet. For the most part, Columbus struggled to threaten the Atlanta goal consistently and that’s largely down to the duo of Michael Parkhurst and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. The center back pairing managed to keep Ola Kamara quiet for the majority of the 2-0 victory and cleaned up loose balls whenever necessary.
The fullbacks, Greg Garza and Anton Walkes (as mentioned above), have managed to get up and down with success in the last two weeks. Both defenders have had their influences on both ends, especially when on the back foot and their tracking back as been crucial to halting potential counter attacks. Tata Martino seems to have found his preferred back four going forward, with all of them in top form.
A full 90 minutes
For the first time in a while, Atlanta looked rock solid for a full 90 minutes. From back to front, the Five Stripes put in a complete performance against Columbus Crew SC and came away with a deserved win. It was tough to pick out a below-par performer as everyone seemed to have their impact on the game in one way or another.
Atlanta looked lighting quick in attack, as per usual, and took their chances besides a couple of golden opportunities to extend their lead. For the first time in a few weeks, Atlanta look balanced and performed well at both ends. Let’s hope this is the start of a long run of balanced performances throughout July and onwards.