Atlanta United came away with a convincing 2-0 win against Columbus Crew in Columbus. Goals from Josef Martinez and Tito Villalba sealed the deal as the King Peaches walked away victorious.
United’s Brad Guzan came up with big saves yet again, earning himself a clean sheet on the night. Martinez took a knock when he headed in the Five Stripes first goal (and his 14th of the season), a header in the far corner off a corner kick. Atlanta’s effectiveness on corner kicks is usually inconsistent, but tonight, it worked in their favor as they continued pressuring Columbus’ defense and earned a goal off their first one in the 30′.
(On Tito Villalba) “He was good. We didn’t want to risk him playing too many minutes tonight because he was another alternative to bring on at halftime for Josef [Martinez] but we didn’t want to risk it with 45 minutes so we decided to bring him on in the second half.” -Tata Martino
In the 82′, United’s Miguel Almirón pushed a perfect through ball to the right flank past two defenders to find Tito Villalba. Villalba took two steps then slotted home the club’s second goal past the keeper. Tito came in as a second-half substitute for Ezequiel Barco. Manager Tata Martino might want to consider putting Tito back in the starting XI where he was last season. I know Barco is starting because he’s the “star” and the big investment, but I’d like to see him earn his way instead of it being gifted to him. That is by all means not a jab at him personally, because he has a big heart and is a great teammate. But Tito provides a certain energy and that Barco cannot. Once Villalba took the field it was like Almirón and Romario Williams immediately found their second wind and the attack was even more vicious. His control, pace, and willingness to challenge everything (not just in the middle) makes him an immeasurable threat that we’ll need.
Leandro Gónzalez-Pirez had another quality outing on defense. His improvement from last season to now is vast and has made a name for himself not just on the backline but on the ball as well (his long ball when switching up plays).
Columbus Crew played a respectable game and they had their chances. Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, and Federico Higuain had great performances. Mensah had an early chance on goal with a sweet header but it went just wide of the post. The future of Higuain is as unknown as the future of the club. With a possible relocation looming in the midst, #SaveTheCrew has turned into a movement as opposed to a hashtag.
Atlanta United return to action next Wednesday, June 20 for the next round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Five Stripes will host Bastian Schweinsteiger and the Chicago Fire. So far the match looks like it will set a U.S. Open Cup attendance record.
Enjoy the World Cup kickoff tomorrow morning (Thursday) and congratulations to the USA, Mexico, and Canada for winning the 2026 joint-bid to host the World Cup. Today was a good day for football.
*Tata stated after the match that Josef Martinez was subbed off because he couldn’t breathe
*Photos: Courtesy of ATLUTD