Atlanta United fans were delighted to see the club re-sign Anton Walkes after being a key part of the 2017 inaugural season’s squad. Much more mature, experienced, and better, he slowly became one of the most consistent players in the squad in the grim 2020 season.
Position: CB, RB
Games Played: 20
Goals and Assists: 0
What went right this season?
With the departure of Leonardo Gonzalez Pirez, Florentin Pogba, and Michael Parkhurst’s retirement, Atlanta United needed to strengthen the depth in central defense. Walkes was a good candidate from the beginning because of his familiarity with MLS and the club.
With Fernando Meza’s arrival, it was thought that maybe Walkes was going to be Meza’s and Miles Robinsons’ backup.
In the craziness that was 2020, Meza could not get situated in Atlanta and with injuries leaving him out, it left Walkes to replace him many times in the starting XI under Frank de Boer Stephen Glass.
His newfound personality and grit helped him become one of Atlanta United’s most consistent players, having one of the highest minute counts in the squad.
What does he need to improve on?
When you look at the Eastern Conference table and see where Atlanta United was placed in the 2020 season, you can assume that the defense was not the best. Although true, Atlanta United’s problem was more in attack than in defense. Six teams conceded more goals than Atlanta United, most above them in the table. Seven teams in the Western Conference conceded more than Atlanta United. So being hard on the backline isn’t entirely fair. They were quite solid.
In Walkes’s case, there always room for improvement.
One problem I did notice that Walkes needed to improve on was positioning. The big problem was that the backline was always getting caught out of position, chasing the ball and with a disorganized offside line. If Walkes improves this part of his game, he can become an even more solid central defender and a key player to Gabriel Heinze’s squad.
What role will he play in 2021?
It will be hard to tell what role Walkes will be under Heinze. It is not known if Heinze will go out and try to sign a new central defender or not. Even if it appears he’s not a regular starter once the season rolls around, you can be sure that he will come in handy as a utility player once injuries and fatigue mount.
Considering the number of minutes Walkes played and how well he played, it is almost certain he will have a role in this squad in the 2021 season.