Atlanta United forward Hector Villalba (15) kicks the ball over Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush (1) during the second half of a MLS soccer game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Photo: Branden Camp
Photo: Branden Camp

Atlanta United’s Villalba happy to return

After scoring a goal in his first game in several weeks to help Atlanta United defeat Columbus 2-0 on Wednesday, Hector Villalba confirmed that he is trying to switch his nationality for soccer from Argentina to Paraguay.

Villalba said he is making the switch for his family. He grew up in Buenos Aires, Arg. where he said many of his neighbors were Paraguayan and spoke Guarani. He also speaks Guarani, an indigenous language spoken in Paraguay.

“A lot of people have talked about it, saying because my dad’s Paraguayan is why I was doing it, but I don’t know my dad,” he said. “I’m doing it for my mom.”

Villalba, 23, said he hopes it leads to a greater possibility to play internationally.

It has been a rough season for Villalba.

After being one of handful of players in MLS to notch at least 10 goals and 10 assists last season, Villalba’s second season with Atlanta United didn’t start well.

He sustained a hip flexor injury that forced him to miss most of training camp. He returned to start the season’s first five games, but notched just one goal and two assists, all in the same game. He then sustained a hamstring injury that forced him to miss two games.

He returned and played in the next five games before sustaining a hyperextended knee during a finishing drill in training before the game at New England on May 30.

He hadn’t made an 18 until Wednesday at Columbus, when he came off the bench to score in the 82nd minute.

Atlanta United will host Chicago on June 20 in the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

“We are just taking it step by step,” he said. “I was able to get 15 minutes tonight. Hopefully against Chicago I can get more minutes.”

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