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D.C. United counter Atlanta United’s attack to win 3-1

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The Black-and-Red, behind standout performances from their star players, won for the first time on the road in 2017

D.C. United came down to Georgia and took a punch in the mouth, but were able to respond admirably to beat Atlanta United 3-1 for their first win on the road in 2017. Atlanta could have scored twice in the opening moments of the game, but eventually took the lead in the 9th minute through Kenwyne Jones.

In a similar fashion to last week though, the Black-and-Red were able to muster a response, and went into the break up 2-1 thanks to a Michael Parkhurst own goal and a strike from Luciano Acosta. Sebastien Le Toux made it three in the second half, giving United four points from their three game road trip.

A week after Ben Olsen was forced into a bevy of changes in the 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, Olsen made just two alterations in his starting lineup against Atlanta. Taylor Kemp returned from illness to take his usual left back spot, and Acosta was back after dealing with an ankle issue, with Marcelo Sarvas relegated to the bench.

But much like last week, United got off to a slow start, and two early saves from Bill Hamid was the only thing keeping Atlanta off the board in the game’s opening three minutes. First, a cross towards the back post from left back Greg Garza found Hector Villalba. Just 82 seconds into the game, Villalba one-timed a shot that was at a tight angle, but Hamid was perfectly placed to deny a goal.

Second later though, gaps in United defensively opened up again. This time, Yamil Asad put a ball into the box that skipped the danger just in front of goal. Villalba collected, and took a touch to set himself up. His effort was sure to be a goal, only Hamid made a save with his leg, running into the post and injuring his leg in the same motion. Hamid needed a couple minutes of treatment, and stopped taking goal kicks, but was able to carry on.

United had survived the first five minutes, which they had not done in their previous three halves of soccer. In the 9th minute though, Jones struck with his second goal this year. Garza kept a ball in for Atlanta along the touchline, and passed over to Asad just inside the box. Asad cut back, and lifted a cross to the goalmouth, where Jones lost Bobby Boswell. The towering Jones got all the power he needed on the header, with Hamid helpless to save United once again.

Jones nearly doubled his and Atlanta’s tally in the 17th minute, once again winning a header in the box. With the Five Stripes working the ball out to the left once again, Garza clipped a cross into the box. Jones ran onto the service in front of Boswell, but couldn’t direct his header on target.

D.C. finally began to settle into the game, and had a look at goal in the 18th minute. Neagle, starting the second week in a row on the left, found an opening after cutting in towards the middle, but his shot was straight at keeper Alec Kann. Kofi Opare then won a header on a 21st minute corner, but his effort bounced well wide.

Then, a stroke of good fortune came United’s way, and an own goal in the 25th minute had them level with Atlanta. With Hamid allowing teammates to take the goal kicks after his injury, Kemp pumped the ball forward across the halfway line. Le Toux won the ball, and Neagle quickly took possession, and made his way towards the box. Neagle worked himself into a crossing position, and tried to find Le Toux crashing the goal. But Parkhurst slid in at the near post, and sent the ball past his own keeper.

That goal took much of Atlanta’s momentum away, and a 29th minute shot wide from Villalba was just about the best that the expansion team created to finish out the half.

Le Toux nearly made it two for United in the 35th minute on a play similar to his goal last week against the Revs. Sam intercepted a pass in midfield, and quickly sprayed the ball forward for Le Toux. The striker wasn’t clear in on goal, but with no options in support, tried his luck. His shot was deflected, but still on target, with Kann forced to push out for a corner.

D.C., perhaps sensing some hesitancy in their hosts, would complete the first half turnaround as Acosta scored his third goal of the season in the 37th minute. Franklin threw the ball in to Acosta near midfield, which seemed innocent enough. But Atlanta chose to not close Acosta down, and he quickly turned back towards the middle of the field, and found space going towards goal. From a seam just outside the box, Acosta shot back across Kann and into the lower corner as United took a 2-1 lead.

D.C. United continued to stymie their counterparts to start the second half, and Acosta had a chance to make it three for the Black-and-Red in the 52nd minute. Acosta and Lloyd Sam exchanged passes in the attacking third, with Sam eventually finding Acosta in the box. The diminutive Argentine cut back towards the middle of the box, faking two players to the ground before firing a shot on target that Kann pushed away from danger.

Four minutes later though, United had their two goal cushion, with Le Toux once again making the most of his opportunity. Jared Jeffrey won the ball in midfield for United, allowing Acosta to quickly play the ball up the field. Le Toux timed a run that beat the offside trap, and he took his sweet time lining up which finish he wanted to use. After chipping a goal last week, Le Toux this time blasted a shot from just inside the box, beating Kann for the 3-1 lead.

Atlanta United wouldn’t go without a shout though, and just a minute later, Villalba put Hamid to the test. This time, the Argentine winger shot from long range, and Hamid made a diving stop, crucially holding onto the ball to prevent any follow up danger from a crowded box.

From there, the elder United continued to frustrate the expansion side. Acosta was eventually replaced by Marcelo Sarvas, who came in to help United close up the game. Patrick Mullins was also used as a substitute, the first time he had played since picking up an injury against Columbus Crew SC back in March.

With some last ditch defending - including three timely blocks by Opare - United kept Atlanta at bay for much of the second half. It was not until the 80th minute that Hamid was forced into serious action. It was again from Villalba, with the winger having possession on the side of the box in the 80th minute. A shot (or possibly a cross?) from a tight angle was on target, but Hamid did well to knock the shot away.

Neagle could have made it four for the Black-and-Red in stoppage time. Picking up a feed from Mullins in the box, Neagle tried to dink around Kann. Neagle couldn’t get completely clear, but eventually found an opening to shoot and guided the ball past Kann. However, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to head Neagle’s goal-bound shot away, keeping United’s win at 3-1.

United, with 11 points from 8 games, return to RFK Stadium next week to open a three game homestand. They begin the stretch by hosting the Montreal Impact.