It had almost been two and half months since the last time since D.C United had scored and picked three points up at RFK Stadium. But after falling behind to Atlanta United in the first half, the Black-and-Red responded, beating their Eastern Conference rivals 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Julian Gressel gave Atlanta the lead in the 16th minute, after a mistake from United at midfield. That lead though would only last for six minutes, as Luciano Acosta made Atlanta United pay for their own mistake. Patrick Nyarko, who missed games earlier this year through injury, then won the game for United in the 60th minute, with his first goal of the campaign.
Amidst a stretch of six games in 18 days, head coach Ben Olsen elected to keep the core of the starting 11 the same from the past weekend, when the Black-and-Red lost 2-0 against Toronto FC. Bill Hamid, Taylor Kemp, Kofi Opare, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb, Ian Harkes, Patrick Nyarko, and Luciano Acosta retained their spots, with Jose Ortiz, Sebastien Le Toux, and Marcelo Sarvas joining them in the starting lineup. Deshorn Brown, who joined United yesterday, was named to the bench, with Lloyd Sam the notable absentee.
United, who had not scored or won at home since April 8th, came out of the gates quickly against Atlanta. Nyarko nearly put D.C. ahead in the 3rd minute, as Le Toux lifted a cross to the far post. Nyarko rose up highest to win the header, but glanced the shot wide, when a shot on target might have beaten keeper Alec Kann.
A cross from Nyarko nearly found Marcelo in the box in the 6th minute, but an intervention from Yamil Asad prevented Marcelo from being able to win the cross. Nyarko then teed up Le Toux in the 11th minute, after winning the ball in the attacking half, but with the ball stuck under his feet, Le Toux scuffed the shot wide of the goal.
In the 15th minute, Atlanta, who is the highest scoring team in the league, came up with their first moment of danger. The Five Stripes quickly pushed the ball forward, though a pass into the box was cut out. The loose ball though bounced out to Asad, who quickly shot towards goal. Hamid did just enough to push the shot wide for a corner kick, and Atlanta could not make that opportunity count.
But two minutes later, Atlanta was ahead, thanks to a mistake from United, and five touches from Atlanta. A back pass from Harkes near midfield was between Opare and Birnbaum, neither of whom stepped towards the ball. Asad took advantage, quickly taking possession, and finding Miguel Almiron with a pass into the box. Almiron then slid the ball into the middle of the box, where Gressel was all alone to tap-in for the 1-0 lead.
Atlanta though, would make their own defensive mistake in the 23rd minute, allowing Acosta to score for United’s first goal at home in 400 minutes. Kann collected a back pass from Michael Parkhurst, and took a touch with Ortiz chasing him down. That led to a bad clearance, which Acosta collected inside the box. Acosta made some space between him and Parkhurst, and then fired in at the near post, for his fourth goal of 2017.
The teams then traded chances of varying degrees for the rest of the half. Two minutes after the equalizer, Almiron had a shot from the top of the box that curled just wide of the far post. Asad was then given a penalty in the 28th minute, but he was ruled offside in the lead up, which negated the penalty call.
Left back Greg Garza had an opportunity for the Five Stripes in the 41st minute, after a short corner was half cleared by United. With time, Garza settled the ball, before lining up a shot that was well hit towards goal. Ortiz got a slight deflection on the shot, but Hamid was still able to save at full stretch.
Kann then kept Atlanta level heading into halftime, with a smart save on Le Toux just before the start of stoppage time. A ball into the box by Nyarko was headed twice, once by Atlanta, the second time by Opare. The second header fell to Le Toux, who volleyed a shot on target, but Kann was able to get down to push the shot wide.
The Black-and-Red had a decent spell to end the first half, and that continued to start the second half, as they continued to be on the front foot. In the 49th minute, Birnbaum won a header from a free kick by Acosta. The header was sent in front of goal, where Ortiz snapped a second header on goal, forcing Kann into a save. The ball spilled from there, but Nyarko couldn’t beat Kann to the rebound, despite coming close.
Ortiz then whipped an inviting cross into the box in the 51st minute, where Nyarko raced in between two defenders to win a header. Nyarko did well to direct his header down, with the bounce beating Kann. But the shot smashed off the woodwork, denying United a lead they might at that point deserved.
Acosta curled a free kick wide in the 56th minute, as United continued to get closer to a lead they so desperately craved.
That lead finally came in the 60th minute, as Nyarko scored a peach of a goal for his first tally of the season. From the right, Korb sent a cross to the middle of the field, just outside the top of the box. Harkes headed the ball to help it move on, allowing Nyarko to chest the ball up to himself. That set Nyarko up perfectly, as he laced a shot to the bottom far corner of the goal, giving United their lead.
Deshorn Brown then immediately entered the game for United, making his debut a day after he signed for the club. And while United continued to push forward, it was Atlanta who started earning the better of the chances after D.C. took the lead.
In the 65th minute, Asad tried his luck from range on the run, but the shot was right at Hamid, who bounced the ball to himself before covering up. Then, in the 76th minute, Brandon Vazquez, who had just entered the game, dragged a shot across the goal, failing to test Hamid after racing onto a pass from Asad.
A last ditch free kick from Atlanta deep in stoppage time forced an excellent save from Hamid, but the referee immediately ended the game after that, though Atlanta would have had a corner kick from substitute Josef Martinez’s shot.
United, with 18 points from 16 games, have a quick turnaround before their next game, in which they travel up I-95 to take on the Philadelphia Union.