Atlanta United’s Anton Walkes growing in confidence

October 7, 2020 Atlanta - Atlanta United defender Anton Walkes (4) misses a shot during the second half in a MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. The game ended with the score 0-0. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
October 7, 2020 Atlanta - Atlanta United defender Anton Walkes (4) misses a shot during the second half in a MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. The game ended with the score 0-0. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta United centerback Anton Walkes said that it’s good that the club is attempting to sign another centerback because it creates competition, which he doesn’t shy away from.

“We are a team,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about a collective. You wouldn’t want the team to fall short in any department.”

Atlanta United reportedly has been tied to several centerbacks from Argentina and may have found its man with the reported acquisition of Alan Franco. The club has yet to confirm the signing and may not do so for at least another week because Franco reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. Once signed and schooled in manager Gabriel Heinze’s tactics, whomever the player is will compete with Walkes and George Campbell for a starting spot along side Miles Robinson in Atlanta United’s defense.

Walkes shouldn’t be counted out. He was a steady performer with 17 appearances, including 15 starts, for the Five Stripes in what was a playoff-less 2020 season.

Walkes said that he is growing in confidence and trying to become a better on-field communicator. Both are the products of what Heinze is teaching. He is providing information that Walkes said is giving the players a level of belief that at times disappeared last year when the squad faced adversity.

“It’s about helping each other,” Walkes said. “We don’t want a repetition of last year so This year, communications is one of the biggest things. I’m getting there, slowly but surely.”

That communication starts off the field and creates the confidence which results in intensity on the field.

Walkes said that in a film session Tuesday, Heinze talked with the players about improving many little things such as how the centerbacks drop into the back three and their body shape when they reach their spots so that they can either receive the ball and play it forward or be able to see if two people are moving into the same area at the same time.

“He demands a lot from you,” Walkes said. “His attention to detail has helped very well. Some of the things you might be lazy on, he always tells you about.”

Like many other Atlanta United players, Walkes described the training sessions as intense but enjoyable and similar to what he experienced under previous manager Gerardo Martino in 2017.

“From my perspective that’s the best way to get the most from me,” he said.

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