It’s only one game, against an opponent sandwiched between midweek continental matches, but D.C. United put down a marker Sunday night, sending off the defending MLS Cup champs by a deserved 2-0 margin.
Here are a few observations from a cold, rainy night on Buzzard Point.
Put the memory of the final preseason game — a 3-0 loss against Montreal — out of your head. We saw a different D.C. United team Sunday night. One that could hold the ball and win it back and threaten the opponent’s goal for sustained periods.
Los Capitlinos didn’t just beat the champs Sunday night, they bossed the hell out of them. DC out-shot the Five Stripes 17-9 and tripled the visitors’ shots on target (6-2). The eye test wasn’t any kinder to Atlanta. If this wasn’t a knockout, it was at worst a unanimous decision in the hosts’ favor.
It wasn’t against the heavily rotated side most of us thought we’d see from Atlanta either. A couple starters were rested at the outset, but this was a nearly full-strength ATL that United handled. Outside of the weather — which was objectively awful — there’s not a lot more DC faithful could have asked for on the night.
The win extends United’s unbeaten streak in all competitions to 12, counting back to last season (and including the playoff exit to Columbus on penalties, which goes down as a draw for anyone scoring at home). We’ll see as more data points build up, but one game into 2019 there’s not a lot of reason to think this isn’t a standard United can maintain going forward.
Audi Field is for real. And so is this team.
The new guys are alright.
Go back to that preseason closer against the Impact. Lucas Rodriguez and Leonardo Jara looked tentative and well short of influential.
Fast forward to Sunday night, and both newcomers to United’s starting XI were instrumental in the win. Titi Rodriguez, well, just look at this.
Leo Jara has a couple of iffy moments but was comfortable on the ball and strong in the tackle, generally looking like a guy who started in the Copa Libertadores final last year.
Assuming tonight wasn’t a “ceiling” type of performance — and there’s no reason to think it was — D.C. United’s Argentine import class of 2019 could be in for some special times.
Bill Hamid > Brad Guzan
Back in January, when he was left out of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s winter camp, Bill Hamid let it be known that he felt that he belonged, even ahead of the four goalkeepers that USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter had called in.
Perhaps to add some intrigue to Sunday’s nationally televised game, mlssoccer.com ran one of Hamid’s quotes anew Sunday: “I’m better than Brad Guzan,” Hamid said. ”He’s a cool guy. I don’t know him very well ... but it should be good beating him again.”
The comments on the story were, as expected, salty as hell. But after Sunday night, when Brad Guzan was burned — but hard — on Luciano Acosta’s long-range effort for the second goal and Bill Hamid kept a clean sheet and commanded his box... well, Guzan told reporters afterward that he was “disappointed” in Hamid’s comments.
But he couldn’t really dispute them on the night. Not without getting laughed out of the visitors’ locker room, anyway.
In the end, Hamid was right: it was very good beating Guzan and Atlanta United again.
That’s what I’m taking away from Sunday night at Audi Field. Let us know in the comments what’s sticking with you.