Atlanta United welcomed D.C. United and their new head coach Wayne Rooney to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. The home team scored three goals in a thrilling second half -- all on headers, two scored by center backs -- to overcome a deficit twice and beat D.C. 3-2 for three crucial points. It was the team's first come-from-behind victory of the season.
First half – Consistent starting XI, Atlanta United creates flurry of chances
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said at media this week that he wanted to create consistency with his starting lineup, which proved to be true on Sunday. The starting XI was the same as last time out in the 2-2 draw in Columbus.
Atlanta United’s first chance of the match arrived in the 7th minute. After some patient passing on the ride side of the pitch, the ball made its way to striker Ronaldo Cisneros up the flank. He passed it back to a streaking Luiz Araújo for Atlanta United’s first shot of the match.
After the 10-minute mark, things started to open up for Atlanta United. There was a brilliant moment of one-touch passing right inside the box that led to Thiago Almada’s shot being blocked. Almada later sent a ball across the field to defender Andrew Gutman near the end line for a chance near goal.
The 28th minute signaled a flurry of chances for the home team. Defender Caleb Wiley kept the ball alive and crossed it into the box. The ball found Amar Sejdić, who took a dangerous shot on goal that was saved by D.C. goalkeeper David Ochoa. The next play, Brooks Lennon’s cross connected with Cisneros far post, but his header went out of bounds.
The chances continued for Atlanta United. In the 34th minute, Lennon sent a sharp pass across the box from the right flank. His pass landed right at the feet of Almada in the center of the box. Almada's first-touch shot went a bit too high, resulting in a goal kick for D.C. United.
The first half was largely controlled by the home side. Atlanta United finished the half with 59 percent of the possession and 11 shots. The 5-Stripes kept a first-half clean sheet for the second straight game.
Second half – D.C. United opens the scoring, Atlanta United faces a deficit twice, answers to score three goals
D.C. United opened the scoring right out of the gate in the second half. On a set piece, Atlanta United looked to clear it out twice with headers from Juanjo Purata and Alan Franco. But D.C. United collected both and the third time, midfielder Ravel Morrison let one rip and found the net to break D.C. United’s scoreless streak.
But the visitors' lead didn’t hold for long. On a corner kick from Almada, captain Alan Franco went up and headed the ball over Ochoa’s reach. The goal evened the match at 1-1 in the 49th minute. It was Franco’s first-ever goal for Atlanta United since joining the club in 2021.
Five minutes later, D.C. United regained the lead. Midfielder Chris Durkin whipped a nice ball into the box and Ola Kamara headed it past Atlanta United goalkeeper Rocco Ríos Novo. The goal briefly went into review for a handball but was allowed. D.C. United went ahead 2-1.
In the 60th minute, Pineda made his first substitution of the match. Josef Martínez entered for Cisneros.
The King quickly made his presence known. In a string of passes, Sejdić kicked the ball out wide to Lennon who was making a run up the field. Lennon curled a ball back into the box, which found Martínez. Martínez leapt and delivered a header into the upper right corner to equalize the match for the home team in the 62nd minute.
Then, the home side found go-ahead goal. Atlanta United was awarded a penalty kick outside the 18-yard box. Araújo took the kick but it was blocked by D.C. United's wall. The 5-Stripes collected the rebound and sent it back into the box. Purata put it away on a header in the 70th minute, scoring his second goal on a header in straight matches and third total on the season.
On Purata’s goal, Lennon was credited the assist. He also assisted Martínez’s goal, finishing the night with two. Almada and Lennon both recorded multiple assists.
Purata's goal proved to the game-winner, and Atlanta United won 3-2 over D.C. United. It was Atlanta's first MLS win this season in a match where they conceded the first goal.
With the win, Atlanta picks up three points in the Eastern Conference table and moves to 33 points on the season.
Up next - Atlanta travels to face Philadelphia Union
Atlanta United has a busy week ahead. First, the team travels to face one of the best teams in MLS, Philadelphia Union, for a midweek matchup on Wednesday. Then, Atlanta heads to the Pacific Northwest for one of the longest road trips of the season to take on Portland Timbers.
Stay tuned to ATLUTD.com and our social channels to stay up-to-date with the latest information.