Last night’s MLS season-opening match between Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls was supposed to be an exciting one for young Tottenham Hotspur defender Anton Walkes. The 20-year old Spurs academy product, who joined Atlanta on a six month loan this January, made his debut late in the match as a defensive substitution.
A sold-out crowd of 55,000 fans was in attendance to see Atlanta play their first game as a new MLS expansion team, and it looked like they were on their way to earning a 1-1 draw. But it all went wrong in the 82nd minute as Walkes bundled in a match-winning own goal while defending Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, giving the visitors a 2-1 win.
Watching the replay, it looks like Walkes was caught ball-watching and let Wright-Phillips get a step on him. The own-goal itself is a bit harsh on the young Anton as he had to make a play there, but it’s a pretty inauspicious debut, especially since he had just come on in the waning moments of the match.
Walkes is young and raw, but it seemed like he had caught the eye of Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino in the first half of the season. Walkes played in both preseason matches against Juventus and Atletico Madrid, and made his first team debut in a ten minute cameo in the EFL Cup win against Gillingham in September.
Anton has played mostly CB this season for Spurs, but he has the ability to also push forward as a defensive midfielder, something that could be useful to Atlanta in MLS this season.
Walkes will no doubt want this one back, but based on what I’m reading from Atlanta fans, there’s every indication that Anton could be a good option coming off the bench for Atlanta United. Hopefully he can shrug it off.