The Crown Cast family, along with soccer fans worldwide, were shocked and dismayed to learn of the sudden passing of Charlotte FC CB Anton Walkes, 25, on the morning of January 19th, 2023.
If you, like the author of this piece, weren’t particularly familiar with MLS as a whole-and Walkes in particular-prior to him getting playing time in the second half of our inaugural season, the amount of footballing success he had in such a short time is impressive. We wanted to take a moment to look back on, and celebrate, his professional career.
Walkes was identified early as a talent, joining the Tottenham Hotspur academy in 2013, at only 16. He captained the youth team there in the UEFA Youth League 3 times. He made his senior debut with the Spurs first team in 2016, during an EFL Cup match that Tottenham would win 5-0.
The following year would bring Anton to America, as he was loaned to Atlanta United for their first season in MLS. He started playing immediately at right back for the club and scored his first of two goals for Atlanta on July 5th 2017, against the San Jose Earthquakes.
His loan spell ended at the conclusion of that MLS season and Walkes returned briefly to Tottenham. He was again loaned out, this time to the south coast of England, to Portsmouth in League One, England’s third division. After 12 appearances and 2 goals for Portsmouth on loan, a full transfer was completed, and Anton would spend 2018 through 2020 with Pompey, as the club is known, including an appearance in a dramatic EFL Trophy Final in 2019. Portsmouth would beat Sunderland on penalties in that match, with Walkes a late substitute on for his side.
In 2020, America came calling for Anton again, as a transfer back to Atlanta United was completed. Between 2020 and 2021, he would make 50 appearances for the club, scoring 1 goal.
Although he appeared to be a fan favorite, Walkes was left unprotected in the expansion draft, and Charlotte FC made him one of three key picks, along with McKinzie Gaines and Joseph Mora. After several inexplicable weeks on the bench, the firing of one manager, and various leg injuries to both Guzman Corujo and Christian Fuchs, Walkes got his opportunity to play centrally in Christian Lattanzio’s defense. He never let the spot go.
Walkes would play in 23 league matches for the club, starting 21, cementing his spot at CB. He proved a powerful defender, strong in challenges and intelligent in his positioning. Late in the season, his partnership with summer signing Adilson Malanda proved highly effective for the Crown. Although he didn’t score for the side, he proved dangerous both in the box in attack and swinging in passes from the right side, a reminder of his time at right back.
Tragically, during preseason training in South Florida, Anton Walkes was involved in a boating accident that left him critically injured. He would pass away in Miami the morning of January 19th.
The Crown Cast joins Charlotte FC, MLS, and soccer fans around the world in mourning this loss. We extend our thoughts and prayers to Anton’s family, friends, and the team.
We loved watching you play, Anton, and you will be missed. Rest in Peace.