Featured image courtesy of D.C. United // Hannah Wagner
In a matchup that heavily favored the visitors, D.C. United was once again disappointed to walk away with just a point. Going into the match, Atlanta United sat at sixth in the Eastern Conference with three wins from their last five, while D.C. sat ninth with one win from their last five.
As the regular season comes to a close, D.C. is fighting to hold on to their 9th place position and the last playoff spot in the East. Every point is essential, and you could see the hunger in the players during the match. From the off, however, Atlanta looked much more up for it with an intense attacking start, slipping several nice through balls in behind and getting forward early.
In the third minute, a cross found Atlanta forward Giorgio Giakoumakis, but his improvised volley hit the woodwork. After further imposing play from Atlanta, they took the lead in the 14th minute when Tyler Wolff won the ball from Chris Durkin in D.C.’s defensive third. Wolff then delivered a pinpoint cross to an on-running Saba Lobjanidze who only needed a deft touch to direct it low to Alex Bono’s right, denying what would have been D.C.’s fourth consecutive clean sheet. After the Atlanta goal, however, there was a shift in momentum.
While the game was being played in a city riddled with traffic circles, the remainder of the match was all one-way traffic. “We grew into the first half, and actually could have went in at halftime having scored two or three goals,” said D.C. manager Wayne Rooney. “Then second half I thought we were excellent.”
D.C. created many chances before the break with several of the prime opportunities falling to José Fajardo who unfortunately didn’t seem to have his shooting boots on, as he was met with two glorious breakaway opportunities, only to blast the ball over the bar on each attempt.
D.C. looked even more dominant in the second half with several exciting passing sequences around the box. In the 62′ a lofted pass into Atlanta’s box eventually fell to Donovan Pines, whose shot struck the arm of Atlanta’s Luis Abraham. Lukasz Szpala points to the spot, but after a very lengthy VAR check, the penalty decision is rescinded as there was an offside infringement by a D.C. United player in the buildup to the goal.
In the 80′, one of D.C.’s fluid passing moves saw Mateusz Klich slip a ball to Gabriel Pirani on the edge of the box. The young Brazilian cleverly let the ball run across his body before slotting a composed finish into the bottom left corner for his first even D.C. United goal.
The final ten minutes (plus eight in added time), saw a flurry of D.C. attacks in which they were unlucky not to score. In the 86′, more quick passing led to a good chance which forced a save from Brad Guzan, while the ensuing corner was headed just wide by Benteke.
- Pirani statement: The young Brazilian has shown his worth since arriving in the capitol last month on loan from Brazilian giants Santos. In his six games for D.C. United, he’s been a constant bright spot for the team and has been unlucky not to get a goal until today. His flicked nutmeg finish against the San Jose Earthquakes was ruled out as he was a step offside, so this should be a boost for him. An exciting attacking midfielder who can take on defenders and find a peach of a pass, this goal will no doubt get more to take notice of what he can do.
- Finishing needs improvement: Today D.C. United showed the kind of game they are capable of playing. Quick passing, quick movement, and combination play, but they’re missing the end product. While Benteke has looked better the past few matches, the trend of “nearly” scoring is going to need to stop if D.C. is to make the postseason. We saw several wayward shots from Fajardo, a field goal from Ruan at the end, and a multitude of other attempts stray off target/go straight at the keeper. If D.C. works on this aspect of their game, squad-wide, these undeserved results could very well turn into something more.
D.C. United: 1 Pirani 80′
Atlanta United FC: 1 Lobjanidze 14′
D.C. United: Alex Bono, Ruan, Brendan Hines-Ike, Donovan Pines, Eric Davis, Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin (Yamil Asad 62′), Gabriel Pirani (Erik Hurtado 86′), Mateusz Klich (Cristian Dájome 85′), José Fajardo (Ted Ku-DiPietro 62′), Christian Benteke
Atlanta United FC: Brad Guzan, Luis Abram, Brooks Lennon, Miles Robinson, Caleb Wiley, Tristan Muyumba Nkita (Machop Chol 90′), Saba Lobjanidze (Edwin Mosquera 59′), Thiago Almada, Tyler Wolff (Xander Silva 59′), Jay Fortune (Matheus Rossetto 72′), Giorgos Giakoumakis (Juan Jose Purata 90′)
D.C. United: Benteke 85′, Asad 88′
Atlanta United FC: Fortune 61′, Mosquera 77′, Silva 89′