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Gelmin Rivas strikes in stoppage time to give D.C. United 2-1 win at Atlanta United

A wild ending saw three goals scored in the final 15 minutes or so, keeping United in the hunt for an unlikely playoff berth

MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After both teams struggled to turn intent into genuine chances, a late show saw D.C. United stun Atlanta United 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this afternoon. Russell Canouse’s 77th minute goal appeared to be enough for United to get their first road win over Atlanta since 2017, but Jon Gallagher had an 88th minute reply. With both teams needing a win to keep playoff hopes alive, it was substitute Gelmin Rivas coming up with a stoppage-time winner to give the visitors their first winning streak of the year.

Interim boss Chad Ashton, coming off of United’s first win in over six weeks, made three alterations to the side that beat FC Cincinnati last weekend. Bill Hamid and Junior Moreno came back from illness and injury, respectively, while Russell Canouse returned from suspension. Chris Seitz, Moses Nyeman, and Frederic Brillant were left on the bench, with Ashton surprisingly opting to play Canouse in a center back pairing with Donovan Pines.

While Atlanta dictated the terms early, the visitors had the game’s first chance. Julian Gressel, looking to put one over on his old team, fought through a tackle before feeding Erik Sorga inside the Atlanta box. The Estonian went for power, but Brad Guzan managed to fight the near-post shot off with a sprawling save.

United’s attacks were sporadic thanks to Atlanta owning much of the possession, but when they were able to get forward they looked the more dangerous team. For their part, Atlanta did force three saves out of Hamid, but only Marcelino Moreno’s 22-yard blast truly tested Bill Hamid, who parried the 45th minute effort away.

Moreno offered up another difficult shot from long range shortly after the start of the second half, but Hamid did very well to read his deflected bid even after it skipped off the turf at the last moment.

Both teams clearly had positive intentions, but in truth their passing in tight spaces and off-the-ball movement was lacking, resulting in little goal danger at either end. Both teams looked to change things up in the 68th minute with substitutions, and United nearly got an instant payoff from Gelmin Rivas. On up front after replacing the quiet Ola Kamara, Rivas chased down a long ball, and as Miles Robinson fell, Rivas was in alone to fire past Guzan.

However, referee Armando Villarreal spotted Rivas pulling Robinson by the arm, calling the goal back for a foul on the Venezuelan.

Finally, United got a late breakthrough, and it was yet another set piece goal for the Black-and-Red. Julian Gressel clipped a 77th minute free kick from the left towards the back post, and with players tumbling over each other in the goalmouth, Canouse got free of his marker to nod down past Guzan, who really should have done better but couldn’t keep the ball from crossing the line.

Four minutes later, Rivas glanced another Gressel service just wide as United threatened to pad their lead. Unfortunately for United, the inability to get a second came back to bite them, as substitute Jon Gallagher notched an 88th minute equalizer. It was a similar formula to how Atlanta did their damage at Audi Field a few weeks ago, with Brooks Lennon swinging in a cross from the right, and Gallagher diving in to nod it past Hamid from close range.

Just when it appeared that the game would drive to an unsatisfactory draw for both sides, the visitors pounced for a last-gasp winner. Kevin Paredes burst into the box before cutting the ball back to Rivas, who controlled the ball before firing into the roof of the Atlanta net from 10 yards. For Rivas, it was a first MLS goal; for Paredes, a first MLS assist.

Atlanta were stunned, and though they pushed Guzan up for a last-gasp free kick, United held strong to start their first winning streak since September 2019. Now back on the fringes of the Eastern Conference playoff race, United (4W-6D-10L) faces a tough home match Wednesday night against the Columbus Crew.

Highlights will be added when they are made available.

Box Score

MLS Regular Season - Game 20
Atlanta United 1 (Gallagher 88)
D.C. United 2 (Canouse 77, Rivas 92+)

ATL (4231): Brad Guzan (C); Brooks Lennon, Fernando Meza, Miles Robinson, George Bello (Jake Mulraney 82); Mo Adams, Matheus Rossetto (Emerson Hyndman 68); Jurgen Damm (Jon Gallagher 68), Marcelino Moreno, Ezequiel Barco; Erick Torres (Adam Jahn 75)

DCU (442): Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem, Russell Canouse (C), Donovan Pines, Joseph Mora; Julian Gressel (Oniel Fisher 86), Junior Moreno, Yamil Asad, Edison Flores (Yordy Reyna 79); Erik Sorga (Kevin Paredes 46), Ola Kamara (Gelmin Rivas 68)

ATL - Barco 39, Meza 91+
DCU - Asad 30, Moreno 86