Atlanta United struggled to convert chances Sunday in their return to Bobby Dodd Stadium, falling to D.C. United, 3-1. Kenwyne Jones opened the scoring for the Five Stripes, but D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid made several key early saves to keep the match within reach for the four-time MLS Cup champions. An own goal that deflected off Michael Parkhurst shocked Atlanta, and goals from Luciano Acosta and Sebastian Le Toux put the game out of the reach.
The Five Stripes came out hot, as they often do, with Hamid’s goal under siege in the early going. Tito Villalba was saved twice by the star goalkeeper in the first 10 minutes on point-blank opportunities. Yamil Asad and Greg Garza combined to find Jones unmarked on the back post in the ninth minute. It was the Trinidad and Tobago national team captain’s second goal for the club.
However, the tide turned on the own goal credited to Parkhurst in the 25th minute. A poor header from Leandro Gonzalez Pirez fell right into the path of D.C. winger Lamar Neagle. He ran in alone on goal and was trying to cross the ball. Parkhurst’s deflection slipped past Alec Kann’s near post to level the scoreline.
While Atlanta seemed stunned, D.C. was buoyed by the good fortune and took the lead in the 37th minute. Acosta found space in front of the backline, dribbled to his left and his perfectly placed shot beat Kann. Le Toux doubled the lead in the 55th minute to put the game out of reach. Jared Jeffrey was able to beat three Atlanta attackers with one pass to Acosta, who then beat three more Atlanta defenders with one pass to Le Toux. In on goal alone, Le Toux blasted his shot past a helpless Kann to make the score 3-1.
Atlanta threw numbers forward in search of a lifeline, but none was forthcoming. The Five Stripes are now in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-3-2 record. Their next two games will be on the road, with the first one coming up next Sunday in Yankee Stadium against New York City FC. Kickoff will be at 4 p.m. ET.
Atlanta United manager Tata Martino on what went wrong:
“I think we played a great first 20 minutes of the game. We created many scoring chances. Although after that we made some defensive mistakes that ended up being very costly. In addition to that, we were lacking consistency at times throughout the game.”
>Atlanta United right back Tyrone Mears on the importance of winning at home:
“Yeah, like I said, for teams to finish in the playoffs you should only win your home games is less important. I think that we’ve got a great away record and I think we’ve shocked a lot of people with that. But it is important; we have to win our home games. It was a setback today, but we are not going to get down, we’re not going to change things. It is just going to be more hard work on the training ground. We will go to New York again, feeling fresh and looking to win the game.”
Atlanta United center back Michael Parkhurst on the first two goals allowed:
“Yeah, the first one we just didn’t get a good clear on it and then they come down. I know he’s going to cross the ball. We just get a little unlucky where on another day I block it and it goes out for a corner kick, but today it goes right in. The second goal was just too easy. I think it might have been straight off a throw-in and he just collects it and dribbles at us. I should have closed him down maybe a little bit tighter. I thought I had it blocked and it snuck through my legs. That’s a tough play for Alec [Kann]. I’ve got to block that.”
- Atlanta dominated much of the stat sheet Sunday, with 74 percent of the possession and 26 total shots. It just goes to show that statistics are not as likely to define the outcome of a match.
- Brandon Vazquez and Kevin Kratz both performed well off the bench when Atlanta was chasing the game in the second half. With injuries starting to mount, Tata Martino needs to know that he has options on the bench that will provide a spark. Vazquez and Kratz did that Sunday.
- This was D.C.’s best performance of the season, a very disciplined gameplan from manager Ben Olsen that was executed to perfection by a veteran squad.
- The next two games on the road suddenly have a little more pressure attached to them. After dropping six points of a possible nine at home in the first three matches at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the team will have to find some points on the road to make up for them. NYCFC and Portland are not easy targets for that though.