It was a frustrating night in the nation’s capital for Atlanta United (6-7-3), who fell just inches short against a resolute D.C. United side (5-8-3) in a hard-fought midweek league matchup Wednesday.
With regular starter Carlos Carmona suspended for the match for an accumulation of yellow cards, Tata Martino was forced to make one substitute in his otherwise unchanged starting lineup, bringing in Kevin Kratz into the center of midfield. The full XI: Alec Kann (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Tyrone Mears (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Kevin Kratz (CM), Yamil Asad (LW), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Tito Villalba (ST).
Coming into the game, Atlanta United had scored first 12 times already this season — the most in the league — and after weathering some early pressure from the hosts, they did it again. In the 17th minute, Yamil Asad received the ball on the left sideline and played a beautiful ball behind the defense to a streaking Miguel Almirón. The Paraguayan #10 got to the byline and crossed it perfectly to the onrushing Julian Gressel, who tapped into an open net for his third goal of the season. The secondary assist also brought Yamil Asad’s total on the season to 9, the most in the league so far this year.
That lead would only last a few minutes. As effective as Atlanta’s passing out of the back can be, an ATL UTD mistake proved costly in the 23rd minute. D.C. United pressured goalkeeper Alec Kann with the pass coming his way. His clearance was intercepted by D.C. United’s Luciano Acosta in the box, who bounced a shot off the inside of the post and in for the D.C. United equalizer. The home side took the lead after halftime, with a volley from Patrick Nyarko skidding past Kann and inside the far post.
Atlanta cranked up the pressure in search of an equalizer, bringing on striker Josef Martinez, Chris McCann and Brandon Vazquez for some added impetus in the attacking third. Despite a dominant period of possession, they weren’t able to break through D.C. United’s organized back line as the clock ticked toward the 90th minute.
The old cliché is that it’s a game of inches, and that was no more apparent at the very end of the game. Despite dominant stretches of possession without the crucial equalizer, Atlanta got one more shot at walking away with a point with the final kick of the game. Josef Martinez lined up a vicious strike from a free kick that look destined for the far corner, but a fingertip save from D.C. United’s Bill Hamid just kept Atlanta off the board, and the game ended 2-1 in favor of the hosts.
The good news for Atlanta United is they have a chance right around the corner to get back on track. They now return to Atlanta to prepare for the Colorado Rapids’ visit to Bobby Dodd stadium this Saturday. Tickets are sold out, but you can catch the game on TV on Fox Sports Southeast or stream the match online at FOX Sports GO or MLS LIVE.