Last season, D.C. United defeated Atlanta United all three times that the two met. D.C.'s luck over the five stripes ended Sunday afternoon as Miguel Almiron and Atlanta put on a show in front of an MLS record crowd of 72,035 people.
D.C. United's defense started the game stout, but a goal from Josef Martinez in the 25th minute put the hosts in front. In the second half, Atlanta extended its lead in two minutes with goals from Almiron and Hector Villalba. D.C.'s Darren Mattocks pulled one back for the black and red, but it wasn't enough to spark a late comeback and spoil the home opener.
Martinez puts Atlanta ahead
Aside from the dominating performance, D.C. had a positive to look at. Its defense kept the capital club in the game for as long as it could, but eventually, Atlanta's lethal attack was too much. A run from Villalba ended in a dangerous cross that skipped past two D.C. defenders found the feet of Martinez and sent the record crowd into a roar.
At the end of the first half, the stats proved Atlanta's dominance. Atlanta had nine shots compared to D.C.'s zero and dominated possession 59 percent to 41 percent. While the black and red's defense held its ground, it wouldn't take long for Atlanta to take advantage of the numerous chances they received.
Atlanta puts it out of reach
The first 25 minutes of the second half was a little different than the first half. The tweaks Ben Olsen made to D.C. leveled the playing field a little bit, but when the 73rd minute came around Atlanta doubled its lead. The fan Miguel Almiron received the ball at the edge of the eighteen-yard box and fired past an outstretched David Ousted. Two minutes later, Villalba got on the end of a corner and headed it past Ousted.
Things got interesting in the final minutes of the game. In the 86th minute, Darren Mattocks pulled one back for D.C. That was the Jamaican international's first competitive goal wearing the black and red. Not too long after Mattocks had another good chance to make things very interesting heading into stoppage time, but his shot couldn't find the target. Atlanta would then be able to close out the match, earning its first win of the season.
For D.C. United fans, don't panic just yet. The team is still building chemistry and they fell to a very good Atlanta United team in front of a record-breaking home crowd. The glaring issue, though, is that D.C. doesn't pose a consistent threat throughout the game - something they struggled with last season as well. Ben Olsen isn't panicking, as he believes the team will get through it.
"This will be a long first half of the year," Olsen said after the match. "We aren’t going to get a result in every road venue. This was a tough one.”
D.C. United will play its first "home" match next Saturday against the Houston Dynamo. The game will be played at Maryland's SoccerPlex as D.C. waits on Audi Field to finish construction. D.C. now sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta has another home game next Saturday, but this time it's against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The five stripes are back on track and now sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.