Despite a Yordy Reyna wondergoal, D.C. United fell to their third straight loss as Atlanta United escaped Audi Field with a 2-1 win. A dubious Josef Martínez goal gave Atlanta a first half lead before Marcelino Moreno — after long spells of dominance from the home side — delivered a stunning late winner.
After heavily rotating in Wednesday’s road loss to New England, Hernán Losada was able to call on Andy Najar, Kevin Paredes, and Russell Canouse (making his first appearance in just over a month due to an ankle injury), while also restoring multiple players who have been first-choice for much of the season to the starting eleven.
United, normally the owner of all the early chances at home, had Jon Kempin make a fine 3rd minute save to deny Atlanta’s latest pricey addition, Luiz Araújo, from 23 yards. The game’s next attack was a bit more customary for Audi Field, with Ola Kamara bending an angled shot just over the bar within a minute.
Najar got forward to create the game’s next big chance in the 18th minute, faking Marcelino Moreno to the ground before squaring to Junior Moreno. Moreno had to bend his shot around a crowd of white shirts, and ended up missing the inside of the post by a foot.
The visitors took a 25th minute lead in controversial fashion. Marcelino Moreno escaped Julian Gressel before carrying the ball inside, eventually slipping Josef Martínez in behind the United defense. Tony Alfaro tried to throw Martínez off, but the Venezuelan marksman kept his footing to roll a shot past Kempin. Fans loudly chanted for VAR after an in-stadium replay showed Martínez in what appeared to be an offside position, but referee Nima Saghafi never appeared to get a call about it, and the goal stood.
United should have gone level in the 38th minute. The aftermath of a corner bobbled its way to Ola Kamara, and with no one around, he leaned back and ended up scooping a sitter from seven yards over the bar.
D.C. were finally coming to life though, with Edison Flores setting Paredes up for a promising run up the middle that saw him lose Alan Franco only to shoot right at Brad Guzan in the 40th minute.
United brought Yordy Reyna in at halftime, and the move paid off in a moment of magic in the 50th minute. Brooks Lennon was called for a foul on Reyna along the touchline, and while both sides prepared for a traditional service into the box, Reyna spotted his chance, stepping up to curl the ball to the back post, over Guzan, off the crossbar, and in to equalize.
The Black-and-Red were piling on the pressure, with Flores heading down only for the ball to glance off of a clearly surprised Guzan in the 60th minute. Kamara beat Guzan to a recycled 63rd minute corner, but could only head Gressel’s driven cross wide.
Reyna, full of confidence after his wonder goal, turned Miles Robinson before teeing fellow substitute Drew Skudrich up for a 25-yard effort that Guzan had to save at full stretch. Skundrich then crossed for Kamara in the 79th minute, but his header skipped just wide.
With United pursuing a win, the game was wide open, and Martínez was denied a potential second by some top-notch goalkeeping from Kempin. The United goalkeeper didn’t look so sharp on the opening goal, but on this one he cut Martínez’s angle down before tipping his shot from ten yards wide after Atlanta had broken in behind.
The warnings were there, and Atlanta delivered an 82nd minute sucker punch. United blocked one shot at the top of the box, but couldn’t get control of the ball. Martínez got on the ball inside the box, but with no angle, laid the ball back to Marcelino Moreno, who changed his angle before sending a low shot that somehow evaded multiple blocks before picking out the bottom corner.
United threw the kitchen sink at the visitors, ostensibly attacking with five forwards at times. Skundrich lobbed the defense to pick out substitute Ramón Ábila, whose shot from along the endline smashed off of Guzan’s ribcage in stoppage time.
Despite the pressure, United couldn’t find a winner, falling to their third straight loss. The defeat sees the Black-and-Red (8W-3D-10L, 27 points), remain in 6th place pending the outcome of Montreal’s match against Philadelphia later tonight.
They’ll finally get some down time before their next game, with a full week of training ahead before they host the Philadelphia Union next Saturday, August 28, with kickoff set for 8:00pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 21
D.C. United 1 (Reyna 54)
Atlanta United 2 (Martínez 25, Moreno 82)
DCU (343): Jon Kempin; Andy Najar (Ramón Ábila 84), Steven Birnbaum (C), Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse (Felipe Martins 84), Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora (Yordy Reyna 46); Edison Flores (Drew Skundrich 61), Ola Kamara, Kevin Paredes (Griffin Yow 87)
Atlanta (3511): Brad Guzan (C); Miles Robinson, Alan Franco (George Campbell 71), Anton Walkes; Brooks Lennon, Luiz Araújo (Ronald Hernández 89), Amar Sejdić (Matheus Rossetto 61), Marcelino Moreno, George Bello; Ezequiel Barco; Josef Martínez
DCU - Alfaro 50, Canouse 58, Moreno 73, Gressel 75
Atlanta - Bello 29