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D.C. United in control, triumphs over Atlanta United 2-0

Paul Arriola and Lucho Acosta struck as United scored a deserved win over the defending MLS Cup champions

MLS: Atlanta United FC at D.C. United Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United triumphed over last season’s champions, Atlanta United, 2-0 in their first match of the 2019 season. The home side proved to be a strong competitor by maintaining possession, threatening Atlanta’s goal throughout the game and playing with an intense determination. Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta scored either side of halftime, and the Black-and-Red largely controlled Atlanta from there.

Frank de Boer decided to play mostly first-choice players, instead of rotating as expected. Olsen, on the other hand, had no mid-week game to prepare for, sending out his strongest eleven. The team included debuts for high-profile offseason additions Lucas Rodriguez and Leonardo Jara.

D.C. kicked off their first match of the season in an aggressive manner, determined to make their way to the opponent’s box for the early attack. Within the first 10 minutes, United had attempted a few shots on goal, and successfully completed dynamic passes across the pitch.

In the 7th minute, Rodriguez had his first threatening shot of the match, striking the ball from just outside the box and sailing it slightly over the crossbar. At the other end, Hamid was forced to make his first save of the night in the 13th minute as Leandro Gonzalez Pirez picked out a long ball for Ezequiel Barco, who attempted to reach the goal before United’s netminder dove to his feet for the save.

The home side maintained a high tempo, though Atlanta responded with a spell of better play after the first 20 minutes had passed. In the 32nd minute, United settled inside Atlanta’s half, completing passes until Acosta took initiative. The home side’s playmaker weaved his way into the box and found Arriola, who forced Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan to reach for the save.

The Black-and-Red’s momentum continued with two consecutive attempts at goal. In the 37th minute, Joseph Mora made his way up the left flank before finding Wayne Rooney inside the box. Rooney fired, but missed picking out the lower corner by inches. Two minutes later, Jara completed a crisp pass to Junior Moreno, who directed a shot from a promising spot straight into Guzan.

Atlanta used United’s sequence as a wake-up call, increasing their efforts to offer some threats of their own, though they were largely limited to long spells of possession that ended with shots from outside the box.

Seconds before the halftime whistle, United capitalized on a sequence of corners. Rooney drove the ball into the box for Acosta, surprisingly, to meet the ball inside the area. Acosta’s off-balance effort may have started out as a shot, but it served to assist Arriola instead, as the winger ripped a close-range shot past Guzan to hand United a 1-0 lead.

D.C. came back from the break with the same strength and energy, determined to maintain the lead. After a couple attempts on goal, the home side found themselves settled inside Atlanta’s half.

In the 58th minute, the Black-and-Red began completing crisp passes, reaching a threatening area inside Atlanta’s box. Rodriguez dangerously wove past defenders to find Acosta, who created a pocket of space and hit a powerful shot from around 25 yards. In the rain, the ball knuckled, causing Guzan to misjudge a shot he appeared to be ready to stop, and Acosta ran off to celebrate as the score became 2-0.

Atlanta responded with a few moments of possession, but couldn’t accomplish a threatening attempt until the 69th minute. Brek Shea took control in the middle, and combined with Josef Martinez, Julian Gressel and Gonzalez Pirez until reaching United’s half. Then, a couple of feet in front of the box, Eric Remedi found the ball and finally gave Atlanta a shot on frame, only for Bill Hamid to rob the central midfielder with a fine save.

United’s last chance of the game came in the 88th minute, as Rooney made his way to the opponent’s box and crossed the ball to substitute Ulises Segura, enabling the Costa Rican to shoot and force Guzan to reach for the save.

From there, D.C. saw the game out, winning their season opener for the first time since 2015. The Black-and-Red will look to build on the win next Sunday as they travel north to take on New York City FC.

Box score

MLS Regular Season (Game 1)
D.C. United 2 (Arriola 46+, Acosta 58)
Atlanta United 0

DCU (4231): Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta (Chris Durkin 88), Lucas Rodriguez (Ulises Segura 67); Wayne Rooney (C)

ATL (3421): Brad Guzan; Miles Robinson, Michael Parkhurst (C), Leandro Gonzalez Pirez; Mikey Ambrose (Julian Gressel 59), Eric Remedi, Darlington Nagbe, Brek Shea; Hector Villalba (Gonzalo Martinez 59), Ezequiel Barco (Jeff Larentowicz 77); Josef Martinez

DCU - None
ATL - Ambrose 53, Larentowicz 83