D.C. United and Atlanta United appeared destined for a scoreless draw. It would have suited the display at Audi Field, where both sides largely stymied one another on the night, with few real chances in either direction. However, just as United pushed for a last-gasp winner, they were hit on the other end, as Marcelino Moreno’s stoppage time header gave the visitors a 1-0 win.
While United couldn’t call on new DP Taxiarchis Fountas (who is still working through the US visa process), they were able to give Chris Durkin a place in the starting lineup after the former homegrown midfielder made his return from three seasons in the Belgian top flight last week. Edison Flores, who played for Peru in their final qualifier just days ago, made way as Hernán Losada moved into a 352 formation.
United had some early nerves when Atlanta pumped the ball into the box, with Bill Hamid saving from Josef Martínez in the 2nd minute followed by a strong Russell Canouse block from the same man eight minutes later on a set piece. At the other end, the Black-and-Red’s high press nearly provoked a goal out of nothing, with Alan Franco having to hoof the ball out of bounds at the last second.
Hamid denied Martínez on an angled bid a few minutes later, while United consistently found themselves unable to quite turn their pressure into a final ball. Nigel Robertha finally gave Brad Guzan a real test in the 36th minute, beating Brooks Lennon at midfield before racing away behind the defense. From an angle, he tried to power a shot past Guzan, but the veteran slapped it away.
At the other end, Hamid produced a tremendous save with the final play of the first half, denying a laser from Matheus Rossetto after the Brazilian peeled out around D.C.’s back three to open up a shooting angle.
The home side showed more going forward to start the second half, with Robertha at the center of the danger. He set Durkin up for a shot that was blocked in the 58th minute, resulting in a series of corners that the Black-and-Red worried Atlanta with. The third in the sequence saw Steven Birnbaum send a bullet that Guzan had no chance at stopping heartbreakingly wide of the post.
United were slowly but surely increasing the pressure, but in truth their chances largely relied on set piece delivery rather than open play looks. Atlanta, despite bringing USMNT center back Miles Robinson on as a late sub to move to a back five, spent a spell in the ascendancy. United worried Atlanta with a series of corners again, especially after serving the ball back in after a half-clearance, but Birnbaum and Flores (in off the bench) both found the ball just out of reach in the goalmouth on successive looks.
However, a set piece at the other end would spell disaster for DCU. A 94th minute ball to the back post saw United unable to track Marcelino Moreno, and his floating header back across goal tucked into the bottom corner, just out of Hamid’s reach, gifting Atlanta a third straight win at Audi Field.
United, now 2W-0D-3L and now on a three-game losing streak, bizarrely enters another long spell without a match. They’ll have next weekend off before returning to play on April 16, where they’ll host Austin FC in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs.
MLS Regular Season - Game 5
D.C. United 0
Atlanta United 1 (Moreno 94+)
DCU (352): Bill Hamid; Andy Najar (Chris Odoi-Atsem 46), Steven Birnbaum (C), Brendan Hines-Ike; Julian Gressel (Drew Skundrich 84), Russell Canouse, Sofiane Djeffal, Chris Durkin (Griffin Yow 75), Brad Smith; Nigel Robertha, Ola Kamara (Edison Flores 75)
Atlanta (4141): Brad Guzan (C); Brooks Lennon, Alan Franco, George Campbell, Andrew Gutman; Osvaldo Alonso (Francisco Ibarra 62); Jake Mulraney (Miles Robinson 74), Matheus Rossetto (Santiago Sosa 46), Marcelino Moreno, Thiago Almada (Tyler Wolff 96+); Josef Martínez (Jackson Conway 62)
DCU - Canouse 34, Djeffal 38
Atlanta - Campbell 33, Conway 81, Almada 89