Atlanta United falls to D.C. United 2-0 in MLS season opener

Atlanta United lost its first match of the 2019 MLS season 2-0 to D.C. United Sunday on a cold and rainy night at Audi Field.

Paul Arriola scored the game’s opening goal in first-half stoppage time, finding a loose ball in the box after a Wayne Rooney corner and smashing a close-range shot past Brad Guzan. Atlanta’s best effort in the first half came in the 40th minute when Tito Villalba struck a right-footed shot from about 25 yards out that swung just wide of the far post.

Luciano Acosta doubled D.C. United’s lead in the 58th minute, as the Argentine dribbled into space outside Atlanta’s penalty area and a drilled a low shot that skipped off the wet surface and beat Guzan. Atlanta made two substitutions immediately following the goal, bringing on Gonzalo Martínez and Julian Gressel for Tito Villalba and Mikey Ambrose. Jeff Larentowicz later replaced Ezequiel Barco in the 83rd minute.

For the second straight match, Ezequiel Barco stood out as the engine on the pitch. Once he gets his timing down (when to pass) he’s going to be a problem for defenders this season. Brek Shea looked like the Brek Shea of the past as opposed to the one who showed up against Costa Rica. It looked like tired legs and the weather didn’t help, but credit the D.C. back line on defending.

I found it ironic that the five stripes were stopped by the same formation that solidified their attacking prowess last season. On paper D.C. United used a 4-2-3-1 formation (which Tata often used) but on the pitch, Russell Canouse sat back in front of their two center backs. This move proved valuable as it halted Josef Martinez’s attack as he was going up against three defenders at times.

“We weren’t as sharp as we can be and they’re a good team,” said Brad Guzan after the match. “Ultimately, the goal before halftime… A questionable decision whether it’s a corner or not. I’ve heard from numerous people, maybe you’ve seen the replay, but the corner before that led to the goal wasn’t a corner. From top to bottom, we weren’t our best tonight, but we pick ourselves up and we go again Wednesday.”

Atlanta United returns to action Wednesday (10 p.m. EST, Yahoo Sports, Univision Deportes) in the first leg of its Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal tie at C.F. Monterrey.

STATS

Shots: 17-9 D.C.

Shots on Target: 6-2 D.C.

Corner kicks: 7-3 D.C.

Fouls committed: 9-6 ATL

Clearances: 24-15 ATL

Offside: 2-1 ATL

Possession: 56-44 ATL

Passing Accuracy: 85-82 ATL

*Atlanta United is now 0-4  in matches at D.C. United.

 

-Jon J.

Photo: Courtesy of ATLUTD

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