Match Recap

Atlanta United falls at home to D.C. United 3-2


Meetings between Atlanta United and D.C. United in recent years have been high scoring affairs, and the same was true for Saturday’s matchup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Five goals total were scored on the night, but the outcome didn’t fall in Atlanta’s favor and the 5-Stripes lost at home 3-2.

With the result, Atlanta United's tough run of form continues. The team is now winless in its previous six regular season matches, which includes three straight home losses.

"We need to step down on the ground and stop flying," Giorgos Giakoumakis said. "Because I feel that sometimes we have this bad habit that when we win 1, 2, 3 games, then we fly a little bit. We have to stay on the ground and to be more humble. Now, we have to work even more."

Atlanta United opened the scoring on a penalty kick from Thiago Almada. D.C. United defender Christopher McVey was called for a foul inside the box on Giorgos Giakoumakis. Atlanta’s Starboy stepped up and converted a driven shot in the 16th minute. It was the third goal on the season for Almada, the second on a penalty kick.

The goal marked no. 20 for Almada all-time in the MLS regular season. He becomes the third player in Atlanta United history to record at least 20 goals and 20 assists in regular season play along with Miguel Almirón and Tito Villalba.

The lead didn't hold long for the home team, and D.C. United answered quickly with a textbook goal. Playing out of the back, the visitors moved the ball end-to-end until it was finally on the feet of Jared Stroud. The midfielder crossed the ball into the box and D.C.’s captain Christian Benteke connected on a header, his ninth goal in 10 matches, to even the contest 1-1 in the 19th minute.

Atlanta United created one of its best organic moments in the attack in the 39th minute. Almada sent a pinpoint through ball to Caleb Wiley making a run up the left side of the pitch. The Homegrown fullback crossed it low to Saba Lobjanidze who was open on the far side of the box. Lobjanidze’s shot was on target but D.C. United goalkeeper Alex Bono covered his post well to take away Saba’s angle and make the save.

A long possession from D.C. United led to the visiting team’s second goal of the night. The same playmakers made it happen as Stroud found Benteke on the far post for a header, securing the striker’s brace on the night. With that, D.C. United took the lead at Mercedes-Benz Stadium 2-1 in the 44th minute.

"They created more danger than us," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said in his postmatch press conference. "This wasn't the type of game we were playing like we were creating a lot, a lot, a lot but we're missing chances and some transition moments and some set pieces we conceded. But today, that wasn't the game. Today, their directness, their long balls, their kind of pressure, we couldn't pass that."

Atlanta United equalized at the start of the second half on an own goal. Lobjanidze sent a low driven shot near post that was deflected into goal by D.C. United’s Matti Peltola. The equalizer made it 2-2 in the 48th minute. On the ensuing possession for D.C. United, Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan stopped what nearly was a hat trick for Benteke.

The striker did find his hat trick in the 55th minute, once again on a header, to give the visitors a 3-2 edge. Benetke, who was a problem for Atlanta United all night, moved into a tie for first place in the Golden Boot race with his performance Saturday.

"It was just a case of Benteke winning the first ball and flicking it on," center back Noah Cobb said. "It's really unpredictable where that ball is going to go, and I think it's really tough."

"It was a tough, tough task for the backline," Pineda said.

While trailing, Pineda sent some reinforcements onto the pitch. MLS veteran Dax McCarty came on at halftime. Winger Xande Silva along with the team's goal scorers in the U.S. Open Cup match, striker Daniel Ríos and midfielder Nick Firmino, were second-half substitutions. However, it wasn't enough as Atlanta United couldn't find their third goal.

"In general, this is very different to the previous matches, very different," Pineda said. "The previous five matches normally we're better than the opponent and we were just missing the sharpness. Today, we scored two goals and created a few more, but we need to come back to that and get back to that. This is fixable. We need to regain that vibe of positivity and once we get that back, I think we're going to be fine. It's a just down moment, this one, and we need to correct it."

After a midweek match in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup that saw five players make their first team debuts, the starting lineup for Atlanta United on Saturday looked more like the team's recent MLS matchups. Pineda opted for speed against D.C. United, inserting both Lobjanidze and Edwin Mosquera as wingers in the starting XI.

This is the first of three matches against D.C. United for Atlanta this year. In addition to two MLS regular season meetings, the two Eastern Conference clubs were also drawn into the same group for Leagues Cup which kicks off later this summer. They join Santos Laguna from Liga MX in group East 7.

Match Stats
Atlanta United 
D.C. United
Shots on target
Corner kicks
Fouls committed
Passing accuracy

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