Tito Villalba puts two past Columbus Crew to earn crucial away victory

Atlanta United defeated Columbus Crew SC 2-0 behind Tito Villalba’s second brace of the season and Alec Kann’s fourth clean sheet. The win completed Atlanta’s sweep of Crew SC this season and moved the team into fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

“Today we played a solid game against a tough opponent and we didn’t give them many chances,” head coach Tata Martino said. “We played a serious game without many mistakes on our part, and we were opportunists. We had five clear chances on goal and we converted two.”

For the 15th time this season, Atlanta United scored the first goal of the match. After a back pass from Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, goalkeeper Alec Kann cleared the ball into Columbus’ half of the field. Crew SC defender Jonathan Mensah mistimed his jump while jostling for position with Josef Martinez, which allowed the ball to drop in behind Columbus’ defense. Villalba ran on to the loose ball, taking one touch off his chest before delicately poking the bouncing ball past goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Kann was credited with his first MLS assist.

Earlier in the half, Atlanta had multiple opportunities to strike early when Miguel Almirón hit the woodwork in the 12th minute and Villalba had his free kick saved by Steffen in the 19th minute. Kann nearly earned his second assist of the night when another long ball fell behind the Columbus backline to a sprinting Josef Martinez, whose left-footed shot soared just wide into the side netting.

Atlanta entered halftime with a 1-0 advantage, marking the seventh time this season the team has led at the break.

Villalba doubled the lead in the 64th minute when Almirón made a run through the left side of Columbus’ penalty area and sent a high cross intended for Josef Martinez. The ball bounced to an unmarked Villalba where he smashed home the goal between an outstretched Steffen and a Crew SC defender standing on the goal line.

It was Villalba’s second brace of the year. His first came during the 2-2 draw at Toronto FC on April 8.

Atlanta saw out the victory in front of 20,391 fans at MAPFRE Stadium. It was Columbus’ first sellout this season and the largest home crowd since Sept 26, 2015 against Portland Timbers.

Atlanta United (8-7-3, 27 points) returns to action tomorrow, Tuesday, July 4 at 7:00 p.m. against San Jose Earthquakes. The match will be televised on FOX Sports South.

 

STATS

Shots: 12-8 Columbus

Shots on Target: 4-1 Atlanta

Corner kicks: 8-3 Columbus

Fouls committed: 12-10 Columbus

Saves: 2-1 Columbus

Clearances: 24-16 Atlanta

Offside: 4-0 Columbus

Possession: 58-42 Columbus

Passing Accuracy: 78-71 Columbus

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