- By Doug Roberson The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Perhaps the player who is the biggest mystery on Atlanta United takes a touch, sees the goalkeeper, and hammers a shot from 18 yards. That ball slams off the underside of the crossbar, into the ground and away from the goal.
A few minutes later, the same player takes a touch, sees the goalkeeper and hammers a shot toward the opposite corner. The ball screams along the ground, ricochets off the post and into the net.
Such is the life of a striker. Sometimes, shots hit the post and bounce out. Sometimes, shots hit the post and go in.
“It feels good to get back into the flow of things,” Romario Williams said.
Williams may be the biggest mystery on the team because, while an Atlanta United player last season, he never played for the team. He rarely even trained with the group. Just as training camp began last year, Williams was called into the Jamaican national team camp. He performed well enough there to earn call-ups for friendlies and the Gold Cup throughout the year.
“To make it to the (Gold Cup) finals and be a key figure in the team leading up to the finals was a big confidence booster,” he said on a beautiful Wednesday morning in central Florida at Atlanta United training camp.
After that first call, Williams was sent by Atlanta United on loan to Charleston for what turned out to be the season.
Williams performed well for the Battery, scoring 15 goals in 23 appearances. He said his sharpness and timing of his runs was his biggest improvement while playing with Charleston. He played so well that when Atlanta United lost striker Josef Martinez to an injury during the summer, the team’s supporters asked over and over again if Williams would be re-called to fill in.
Instead, the decision was made to let Williams stay in South Carolina.
“The technical staff and coaching staff did what was best for the team and the players,” Williams said. “Josef went down and other guys stepped in and got the job done.
“I was watching from a distance. It was a thing of beauty to sit down and watch and try to learn from afar. It worked out for both parties. They had a great year. As everyone can see, you know what Josef can do. In Charleston, I got a lot of opportunities to show what I can do.”
Williams said he learned a lot watching Martinez and Atlanta United from afar last season. The runs that led to some of Williams’ goals last season may have been the result of watching Martinez, who scored 19 goals in 20 games last season.
“The timing of his runs is second to none in this league,” Williams said. “His instinct, his ability to finish, whether it’s right foot, left foot, in the air with a header, the guy is remarkable.”
Williams may get a chance to show more of what he learned this season a bit closer to Atlanta.
Martinez is the only true experienced striker on the roster. The team shifted Hector Villalba from out wide to striker when Martinez was absent. It seems manager Gerardo Martino prefers to play Brandon Vazquez out wide. Kenwyne Jones retired. Homegrown Lagos Kunga is just 19 years old. Jon Gallagher and Gordon Wild were drafted, but it is unlikely because of their lack of experience that they would step in should Martinez not play.
Williams said it’s nice to be able to train with Atlanta United every day this season. He feels he is getting into a rhythm that couldn’t happen last year.
Even if Williams is sent on periodic loans this season, having Atlanta United 2 playing at nearby Coolray Field in Lawrenceville will make it easier for Williams to keep training during the week in front of Martino and his coaches to stay in a flow and improve as a player.
“At the end of the day I’m here to do one job: that’s to compete, and make the decision tough for the coaches,” he said. “I’m a team player first, always have been, always will be.”