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D.C. United holds out for 89 minutes, but Atlanta United takes 2-0 decision

Without Wayne Rooney, United’s tactics came up just short in Georgia

MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United held on for virtually all of today’s game, but late, late goals from Pity Martinez and Josef Martinez handed Atlanta United the three points. United’s daunting task to confront Atlanta at the Mercedes Benz Stadium intensified after it was announced that Ben Olsen chose to rest star striker Wayne Rooney. A stubborn Black-and-Red largely contained Atlanta, but couldn’t hold out long enough.

United began the match with caution, sitting deep and weathering several early shots. In the 7th minute, Josef Martinez tested Bill Hamid’s quick reflexes after his shot deflected off of Frederic Brilliant and redirected toward the goal. Hamid, restored after being held out of Thursday’s win over FC Cincinnati, was up to the task.

Hamid denied Martinez again a few minutes later, and as the minutes passed, D.C. gradually began to grow in confidence and gain an offensive presence on the pitch.

Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez and Paul Arriola managed to create chances though counterattacking, but their attacks fizzled out at the last moment several times.

The pattern continued after halftime, with Atlanta holding around 70% of the possession while United looked to counter through Acosta’s through balls.

In the 72nd minute, Josef Martinez lurked again inside the box, and Russell Canouse’s attempted tackle was enough for referee Allen Chapman to, after a moment’s consideration, point to the spot.

The 2018 MLS MVP stepped up, but his typically unorthodox penalty kick method let him down for once, and the Venezuelan fired the penalty well over the crossbar.

Shortly afterward, Acosta got through the home side’s midfield and found space to fire the ball from 25 yards out , forcing Brad Guzan into a strong save. It would be United’s final opportunity.

With D.C. tiring, Atlanta pushed higher and higher, and their offensive dominance finally culminated in the 89th minute. Darlington Nagbe just barely kept the ball in after a pass from Emerson Hyndman, and his floated cross caught United’s defense over-committed to one side. Pity Martinez — who, despite his MLS record transfer fee, started this game on the bench — took advantage, heading past Hamid from within the six-yard box.

United threw numbers forward in a desperate attempt to find an equalizer, but Pity Martinez made them pay again in stoppage time. This time, a stray ball found its way to the Argentine, and he played a perfect first-time pass in behind for Josef Martinez, who raced in for a breakaway, clipping the ball over Hamid to consign D.C. to defeat.

The result sees Atlanta jump over the Black-and-Red in the standings, with United falling to 3rd place. They’ll have six days to recuperate before heading to Illinois to face the Chicago Fire next Saturday, July 27.

Box Score

MLS Regular Season (Game 23)
Atlanta United 2 (G. Martinez 89, J. Martinez 92+)
D.C. United 0

ATL (352): Brad Guzan (C); Franco Escobar, Miles Robinson, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez; Julian Gresel, Darlington Nagbe, Eric Remedi, Emerson Hyndman (Jeff Larentowicz 91+), Justin Meram (Dion Pereira 83); Brandon Vazquez (Gonzalo Martinez 65), Josef Martinez

DCU (541): Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara (Ulises Segura 77), Donovan Pines, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum (C), Joseph Mora; Lucas Rodriguez, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Paul Arriola; Luciano Acosta (Quincy Amarikwa 88)

ATL - Gonzalez Pirez 81
DCU - None