Atlanta United’s gripping win over San Jose Tuesday was memorable for everyone in attendance, but perhaps no one more so than Anton Walkes. With the score tied at 2-2 and the clock ticking toward the 90 minute mark, the 20-year-old provided the decisive moment, leaping highest and powering home the game-winning goal with his head.
“I can’t even explain it. It happened so quickly,” Walkes said after the game. “It was a great ball in from Julian [Gressel], from what I can remember, and I was just lucky enough to get that contact on it.”
The goal was the Tottenham loanee’s first ever goal at the senior level, and for an Atlanta team known for its slick passing on the ground, a rare goal from a set piece. Head Coach Tata Martino said he felt confident the work they put in on set pieces on the training ground would pay off.
“We always practice set pieces, sometimes you score and sometimes you don’t,” Martino said through a translator. “It was a very important goal because it was the third and it’s also good that Anton scored because he’s been putting in a great effort playing in what’s not his natural position, so it’s a good reward for him.”
Atlanta has ridden early momentum in games all year long, but found themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to coming back from a deficit after conceding a goal in just the second minute. But Walkes says the team was focused on sticking to the gameplan that has made them the highest-scoring team in the league so far this season.
“We know we have quality, so it’s all about sticking to it throughout the whole game,” Walkes told Atlanta United’s Brittany Arnold after the game. “As you can see, once we get going we can be unstoppable, so it’s all about keeping up that positive momentum.”
Walkes had to wait until mid-June to get his first start for the team, but his form has suddenly made him a constant in Tata Martino’s lineup with four starts in Atlanta’s last four games. But the 20-year-old is keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground.
“I just want to do a good job for the team and I feel I am doing that. I’m trying to take as much advice as I can from the coaches, because they want what’s best for me and what’s best for the team. Hopefully my family are still tuned in [from England], because they’re probably a little tired right now. But I’m just happy I could give something back to the fans, because they’ve been very supportive.”
Walkes and his teammates will be hoping to keep their three-match league winning streak going after the international break as they travel to face Orlando City for the first time on July 21st. They’ll then return to Atlanta for the last ever game at Bobby Dodd Stadium the following weekend to face Orlando City again on July 29th. Tickets are still available for that historic match, click here to reserve your spot.