Down Go the Champions
On a wet, frigid Sunday night at Audi Field, D.C. United took down the reigning MLS champions Atlanta United by a score of 2-0. An inspired Paul Arriola found the back of the net right before the stroke of halftime, and Lucho Acosta bagged D.C. United’s second right at the hour mark.
On their opening night, Ben Olsen’s men delivered a highly disciplined performance against Atlanta at home. The Black-and-Red maintained possession well and pressed intelligently throughout the 90 minutes, overwhelming a lackluster Atlanta side. With such a well-rounded performance against last season’s dominant champions, D.C. United have now established themselves as serious contenders at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The first half of Sunday night’s match between Atlanta United and D.C. United was an entertaining affair between two of the best teams in the East. Although the rain threatened to turn the contest into a physical battle, both teams took the pitch with the intention of moving the ball on the ground and exploiting the quickness of their forwards with incisive through balls.
For most of the first half both sides traded spells of possession, but D.C. United looked far more comfortable and had several chances to find the back of the net. New signings Leonardo Jara and Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodriguez looked dangerous on the flanks and participated in many of D.C. United’s best moves.
Jara, a commanding right back, also freed right winger Paul Arriola to play with less defensive responsibilities, and the latter had numerous incursions down Atlanta’s left side which could have resulted in goals.
Towards the end of the first half, D.C. United finally broke the deadlock when Arriola slammed home a deflected corner kick taken by Wayne Rooney.
When the second half began, Atlanta was able to keep possession well, but they continued to struggle to penetrate a relentless D.C. United backline and midfield that worked tirelessly to short circuit the league’s best offense. D.C. United’s hard work on both sides of the ball eventually paid its dividends when Lucho Acosta fired from long range and the ball skidded into the net past USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer subbed on Copa Libertadores champion Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez shortly after D.C. United’s second goal, but there was little he could do to salvage a point in the remaining half an hour.
With last night’s win, D.C. United assert themselves as serious contenders for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and will look to build on their momentum as they face NYCFC next Sunday.
-Pablo Bayona and Club Eleven Magazine