Two goals by Tito Villalba and Julian Gressel respectively saw Atlanta United Football Club defeat Toronto FC 2-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday night. The Five Stripes have won their third match in a row. In the process, Atlanta has shut out their opponents in each win. Throughout March and April, manager Frank de Boer’s insistence on patience appears to be vindicated.
“It starts with the team spirit and belief,” said Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer. “Five and six weeks ago, we were really needing to get together and understand each other on both sides. From there on, we’ve made some very good progress, and it was already something we saw those two weeks on the training ground. You could see the work rate, and everything. You saw the confidence growing, maybe not directly in the result, but you already saw the beginning proof a lot during the games. This is what you want, of course. Of course, we can improve and we have to improve, but it’s a big step forward against a very good team and good opponent.”
Attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco left the team to play for Argentina in the upcoming Under-20 World Cup and Villalba took his place in the starting eleven. Villalba’s quickness and sudden movements frustrated Toronto defenders all night long.
“He’s so difficult to defend. He’s so quick, and that’s difficult for every defender. I’m happy we have him in our team. I know he’s always eager to play. Sometimes, you have to make choices. But now, it’s his time. He did a great job, scored the first goal tonight and was dangerous. I’m very pleased with his performance,” de Boer said of Villalba.
Atlanta scored their second goal in the 67th minute. Josef Martinez received a pass from Villalba at the top of the box and quickly found Julian Gressel on the right side. The German took a touch to his left and ripped a shot that took a slight deflection before bouncing into the goal.
“The feeling is here, and the locker room has changed quite a bit the past three games,” said Gressel after the match. “I think that’s a very positive sign. Again, we had more chances to score more goals, but ultimately, we came out and won 2-0. It’s just been time and once you are together a little bit longer and have changes happening to your team, it starts clicking and we start to get on the same page. It’s just a natural path.”
Atlanta United will play Orlando City this Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of an expected capacity crowd. The upper deck will be open and the club is expecting 72,000 people on Mother’s Day. Kickoff is 2:30 PM and the match will be televised on FOX 5.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s always nice to have special games like derbies,” de Boer said. “This is that type-of-derby game, so I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, we can have another positive result at the end.”