D.C. United needed a win in a big way on Sunday night against Atlanta United, and their biggest stars produced in a big way, as United beat the 5 Stripes 3-1. Luciano Acosta scored twice, on either side of the half, and Wayne Rooney scored a second half penalty and assisted on Acosta’s two goals to give United a win after they lost their past two games.
Jeff Larentowicz scored a first half equalizer for Atlanta in the first half from a corner kick, but Bill Hamid made several big saves for the Black-and-Red, which helped United secure their eighth win of the season.
In United’s third game in eight days, Head Coach Ben Olsen made just one change to the lineup. Oniel Fisher was removed at halftime during Wednesday’s loss against the Philadelphia Union, and was replaced in the lineup by Ulises Segura. Segura got the start in midfield, while Paul Arriola moved to right back, where he played in the second half midweek.
United have been non-threatening most of the year from corner kicks, but nearly took an early advantage on a second ball in the 4th minute. Brad Guzan punched the corner out of the box, but Atlanta couldn’t clear, and Guzan had to race out to grab the ball before Segura could get a shot goal bound.
Atlanta then began to take control of the game, and had the Black-and-Red pinned down in their own half for a long stretch of the first half. The first opportunity for the 5 Stripes came in the 13th minute, as Ezequiel Barco found Hector Villalba at the corner of the box. The Argentine cut back towards the middle, but put a shot right into Bill Hamid.
Joseph Mora blocked out a cross from Villalba after the midfielder was once again supplied by Barco in the 22nd minute. A minute later, a long ball into the box found danger man Josef Martinez, but the striker had a shot blocked by Steven Birnbaum.
In the 25th minute, a gaffe from Hamid should have resulted in the opener, but the woodwork came to the keeper’s aid. Hamid whiffed on a cross from Julian Gressel, and the ball fell to Barco, who smashed a shot off the upright, with the goal wide open. Eric Remedi had an opportunity for a follow up, but instead received a yellow card for simulation trying to win a penalty.
Despite that, it was the original MLS United that took the lead in the 29th minute. Hamid sent the ball long from a free kick in the box, and Rooney nodded the ball into the path of Acosta. The Argentine raced in the box, and then danced around Gressel and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to create a shooting opportunity. Acosta made no mistake with his shot, slotting past Guzan for his sixth goal of the season.
Gressel forced a good save out of Hamid in the 32nd minute, just before United had two cracks at going up by two goals. First, Junior Moreno slipped a pass into the box for Segura in the 35th minute. Segura rode off a challenge from Gressel, before shooting, only to be denied by a kick save by Guzan.
Kofi Opare won a header from Zoltan Stieber’s resulting corner. It would have been United’s first headed goal from a corner kick all year,, except Villalba was perfectly placed on the line to head the ball away.
Hamid made a big save on Almiron in the 39th minute, and Remedi’s follow-up effort on the doorstep of the goal was blocked out for a corner by Russell Canouse. However, the corner became the enemy of the Black-and-Red. Barco’s outswinging corner found Larentowicz, who sent a header across to the far post for the equalizer in the 40th minute.
United’s fortunes changed early in the second half though, as Arriola won a penalty in the 51st minute. Rooney played out wide for the right back, who raced into the box, and was taken by Barco just as he went to shoot. Rooney took the honors from the spot, and sent Guzan the wrong way to put United up 2-1.
Four minutes later, Villalba had a chance to equalize from a tight angle, after picking up a feed from Remedi in the box. There wasn’t much for Villalba to aim for though, and Hamid made the save, and then a secondary effort was blocked out for a corner.
Miguel Almiron, always dangerous from Atlanta, passed up a shooting chance on a counter attack in the 64th minute. Instead, Almiron played out wide for Barco, who got into the box, but had the ball tackled away by Canouse before pulling the trigger on a shot.
It was Almiron again on a pacey run in the 67th minute, sliding the ball into the box for Martinez. The striker, who last week set the record for goals in a season with 28, had just Hamid to beat, but swept a shot wide of the post.
Atlanta were getting numbers forward looking for an equalizer, creating space for United to attack. And with Rooney’s ball into the the Atlanta half, Acosta raced towards goal in the 77th minute. Acosta got Larentowicz turned around in the box, and then shot back across Guzan, beating the keeper for his seventh tally of the campaign.
Kevin Kratz, a free kick specialist, had been brought in earlier in the half, and had an opportunity just outside the box in the 82nd minute. Kratz’ free kick was just about perfect, seemingly destined to bounce in off the post, until Hamid came flying across, pushing the shot out for a corner.
Larentowicz won a free header just six yards out on the corner, but Hamid was once again up to the task, pushing the goal bound shot out for another corner, which United were able to deal with defensively.
Darren Mattocks came in and was a threat to add to United’s lead late, as the Black-and-Red were happy to sit deep and absorb Atlanta’s attacks. There wasn’t much more danger from the Atlanta side, and United saw out their fourth win in six tries against Atlanta.
United, with 30 points from 25 games, return to action on Saturday, when they travel to play New York City FC.