Atlanta United moved ahead of Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night with a 2-0 win in Columbus. A brace from Tito Villalba was enough to propel Atlanta up to fifth in the Eastern Conference, two points clear of Saturday's opponents.
Villalba's seventh and eighth goals of the season gave Atlanta a second consecutive win and a rare road win.
Atlanta United threatened early on as potential MVP candidate Miguel Almiron picked up the ball in midfield and ran at the defense before smacking the post with his shot. The visitors continued to look the better of the two sides throughout the first half and made the breakthrough just before the half hour mark.
A long ball over the top from goalkeeper Alec Kann was misjudged by the Columbus defense and Tito Villalba snuck in behind, touching it past the on-rushing goalkeeper to make it 1-0. A route one goal from the visitors and a deserved first half lead.
Atlanta came close to make it 2-0 with five minutes left in the first half as another long ball from Kann beat the Columbus defense, finding Josef Martinez in the process, but the Venezuelan put his shot into the side-netting.
A first half of little fluidity for either side but a good finish from Villalba saw Atlanta into the break with a one goal lead.
Villalba Strikes Again
The second half saw a different story as Columbus Crew started the better of the two teams and almost equalized inside ten minutes. Federico Higuain produced the best chance of the game for the hosts, but only managed to find the post with his header. Atlanta were left rueing another missed chance on the hour mark as Villalba latched on to Almiron's through ball but his shot was tipped just wide of the post by Zach Steffen.
Villalba wouldn't have to wait long for another chance and this time he would take it. A cross from the left fell to the feet of the forward inside the box and he lashed his volley past a helpless Steffen to make it 2-0.
The hosts continued to push for a way back into the game during the last half an hour but couldn't seem to fashion any clear cut chances until the final minute of the 90. Kekuta Manneh worked his way into the box before cutting the ball back to Ola Kamara, who saw his shot blocked by Greg Garza.
A solid performance from Atlanta United, taking their chances well for the most part and shutting out Columbus Crew SC, rarely allowing a look at goal. Another impressive showing from the attack while the defense managed a second consecutive clean sheet. Atlanta look to keep things going on Tuesday against the San Jose Earthquakes on the 4th of July, while Columbus take on another expansion side in Minnesota United.