Atlanta United is making the most out of the final minutes of matches so far this season.
A goal in stoppage time from Marcelino Moreno won the match for Atlanta United on Saturday as the team beat D.C. United 1-0 at Audi Field for Atlanta’s first road win of the season.
The game-winning goal came off a corner kick delivered by defender Brooks Lennon in stoppage time. Moreno's header trickled past the keeper for his first goal of the season. It was also Lennon's first assist of 2022.
For the third time this season Atlanta United changed the result in the final moments of the match. The 2-1 win over Charlotte FC on March 13 and the 3-3 draw against CF Montréal on March 19 were also determined by second-half stoppage time goals scored by Atlanta.
“It says a lot about a team that doesn’t give up,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. “Last year, I remember we gave up a lot of points at the end of games and now we’re doing the complete opposite. And that for me is a massive achievement.”
Marcelino Moreno scores the stoppage-time winner vs DC United
The starting XI for Atlanta United saw three changes from the last time out against CF Montréal on March 19 as midfielder Thiago Almada, midfielder Jake Mulraney and defender George Campbell all got the start.
It was Almada’s first career start for the 5-Stripes and Mulraney’s first of the season. Campbell lined up at center back alongside Alan Franco. Miles Robinson got some rest after playing with the U.S. men’s national team during the last round of World Cup qualifiers.
Moreno and Almada started together for the first time and both players were looking to create early. Almada passed into the box for Josef Martínez and Mulraney in the opening 10 minutes. In the 22nd minute, Moreno dribbled through the defense and slipped a ball to Martínez, but Martínez was caught offside.
“These are the first games that we’re playing together now,” Moreno said. “I knew him as a player in Argentina, but I’ve never played with him before. So, I think we’re getting to know each other, and I think we can continue to do these things on the field.”
Atlanta’s best chances in the first half came late. In the 35th minute, Lennon’s cross from the right side was close enough to the near post that D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid came out to slap it away. His block bounced straight to Almada in prime position at the top of the box, but Almada’s shot caught Martínez on the side.
Then in first half stoppage time, Mulraney dribbled the ball down the middle of the pitch and dished it to midfielder Matheus Rossetto. Hamid saved Rossetto’s firmly driven shot for an Atlanta United corner kick.
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan, wearing a new cherry red goalkeeper kit, came up with two big saves in the match, including in the 36th minute when he denied a dangerous left-footed shot from D.C. forward Nigel Robertha.
“It wasn’t the cleanest with us on the ball,” Guzan said. “But there’s other areas where maybe in years past we didn’t have those areas where we’d be able to roll our sleeves up and join a dog fight and come out on top. And we did that tonight.”
It took a strong defensive effort from Atlanta United for the side to get its first clean sheet of the season. Defender Andrew Gutman was tasked with handling D.C. midfielder Julian Gressel, who threatened with his service and delivery on corner kicks. After an errant pass from Campbell in the first half led to a corner kick, defender Brendan Hines-Ike was left open, but his header went over the crossbar. Later in the 61st minute, defender Steven Birnbaum had a close-range header off Gressel's corner, but the chance went wide.
D.C. United finished with 10 corner kicks and 19 crosses on the night.
“D.C. United is a very good team,” Pineda said. “We faced a team that is very direct. They like to overwhelm with pressure and the second balls and winning those aerial duels. It’s hard sometimes to play against these types of teams because they’re always on the front foot. They’re always aggressive.”
Although Martínez has scored seven career goals against D.C. United, Moreno is quickly making a name for himself at Audi Field. Last season, Moreno also had the late game-winner on the road against D.C. United, scoring on right-footed, low-driven ball in the 82nd minute.
“I think we’re a team that we train like we play,” Moreno said. “We’re always giving 100%, giving maximum effort to do our best. And I think you saw in the last game at home when we’re able to come back. And so, we’re a group that’s always fighting.”
The matchup between the Eastern Conference opponents was physical. In the first 30 minutes, 13 total fouls were called. Five yellow cards were given out and 32 total fouls called.
Last time Atlanta United was on the road, it was shut out against Colorado Rapids. Saturday was another physical, tough matchup on the road and this time Atlanta United stayed in the match. The fact that Atlanta United was able to get its third win of the season, and first win away, shows the team’s determination.
“It was a very hard game to play, very physical, but I think due to our talent, our experience, we’re able to take the three points back to Atlanta,” Moreno said.
Atlanta United and D.C. United meet again later this season on Aug. 28. Up next, Atlanta travels to the Carolinas on April 10 for its first-ever match at Bank of America Stadium against Charlotte FC.
HIGHLIGHTS: D.C. United vs. Atlanta United FC | April 02, 2022