Match Recap

Thiago Almada golazo the difference as Atlanta United steals three points in D.C.


Atlanta United kicked off the first of back-to-back road matches on a triumphant note in the nation's capital Wednesday night as the 5-Stripes defeated D.C. United 1-0 thanks to a fantastic finish from Thiago Almada late in the second half and a strong defensive effort to close out the win.

The result was the reverse from the first time these two teams met this season, a high scoring affair back in May. That night, Christian Benteke scored a hat trick and D.C. United got the best of Atlanta United 3-2 to take three points at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The second time around, Wednesday at Audi Field, Atlanta United stole those three points back and gave Rob Valentino his first win of the season as interim head coach.

"That's going to be my challenge to them, and to us as a group, that we continue on this path," Valentino said during his post-match press conference. "They're exhausted in there, and they should be. That's what it should feel like to try to win a game and be competitive, especially on the road. That's not easy."

It was indeed Benteke who put the first shot on goal Wednesday with a header in the sixth minute. After the Black-and-Red dominated the opening minutes, Atlanta United then took a few cracks on goal. Dax McCarty hit a long-range shot in the 11th minute. He struck the ball well but his shot sailed high. Later, winger Xande Silva, 1v1 with his defender, ripped a driven shot near post that went into the side netting.

It appeared Atlanta United might have a moment in the 29th minute when Brooks Lennon found Xande Silva wide open on the far side with a pinpoint cross. Silva headed the ball into the box, and Atlanta United popped it around. Eventually D.C. United cleared the ball away before anyone could take a shot.

Atlanta United nearly found the opener in the 43rd minute. After a 1-2 pass with Lennon, Almada dribbled from the center toward the sideline. With a stepover move, then a change of pace, the Argentine beat his defender and carried the ball back into a dangerous area. He took a shot with his right foot, which forced a diving save from D.C. United goalkeeper Tyler Miller.

"I think it was important because it helped us win the game, but also the important thing is the hard work everyone on the team," Almada said. "So, I think we deserve this win tonight."

The first 45 minutes were scoreless. Possession favored D.C. United (55 percent), but Atlanta United kept pace with a few chances to close out the half, including a direct free kick taken by Almada that sailed over goal. The shots taken were even (6) as well as shots on goal (2).

In the 51st minute, D.C. United created a high-quality chance that for a moment looked like the opener. After connecting some passes around the 18-yard box, D.C. United found Mateusz Klich in the center. He finished with an assured strike, however the goal did not count due to an offside call.

Atlanta United went wingback to from wingback for a strong chance on goal in the 60th minute. On the left flank, Xande Silva found Caleb Wiley making an overlapping run. Atlanta United had numbers in the box to receive Wiley’s cross, and the ball ended up at the feet of Lennon. He skied his close-range shot over the crossbar and the match remained scoreless.

Finally, it was Almada's time to shine. His ability to grow into the game resulted in a moment of pure brilliance from the World Cup winner. On the play, Almada started out wide, then took on multiple defenders to bring himself to the middle of the pitch against the run of play. He put the ball on his right foot and created a masterpiece that went into the upper corner, far out of Miller's reach, in the 79th minute.

"When I passed the second defender, I started to think about putting a shot on goal," Almada said. "The first option was to try and look for a through ball, but there wasn't enough space, so I decided to shoot."

An area Atlanta United has struggled with this season is holding onto the lead, but on Wednesday night, they were able to keep D.C. United from scoring. That called for a couple saves late from Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who finished with four saves on the night, including a block in the 86th minute and denying the equalizer off a Benteke header in the 88th. Derrick Williams also tracked back to make a huge diving slide in the dying moments of second-half stoppage.

Valentino went with five on the backline, which included three Homegrown players starting. With that adjustment, Atlanta was able to keep Benteke, who entered the match second in the Golden Boot race, scoreless. The collective defensive effort secured Atlanta's second straight road win and the team's first clean sheet in MLS play since April.

"Benteke's a fantastic player, and we knew because of the last game that he was dangerous," Valentino said. "Those young guys... they've been with the club since they were kids. They feel pride in putting that jersey on and being able to defend something like that. That's really cool for me just to be in this position to see them grow and be with the club in a cool moment like that."

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

Up next - Meeting in St. Louis

Atlanta United looks to grab more points from this road trip Saturday when they take on Western Conference opponent St. Louis CITY SC.

The 5-Stripes will be without Wednesday's hero, however as Almada received a yellow card during the match against D.C. Due to yellow card accumulation, that means Almada will serve a one-game suspension and have to miss Atlanta’s next MLS match in St. Louis.

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