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Atlanta United vs. D.C. United, recap: Five Stripes dominant in first win of season

Finally, a win over D.C..

MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


A newly instituted 3-5-2 and goals from Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Tito Villalba made for a comfortable 3-1 win over D.C. United and the successful vanquishing of a plethora of personal demons.

The Five Stripes looked comfortable in the new formation early. Tito Villalba, Julian Gressel and Miguel Almiron each had decent chances inside the first fifteen minutes. Atlanta looked completely in control.

A dominating run of play finally merited a result in the 24th minute when Darlington Nagbe played Villalba into acres of space on the right side. Villalba found a streaking Martinez just inside the six-yard-box for the first goal of the of the game and of the season.

The half ended with Atlanta out shooting D.C. nine to one.

The second half continued where the first half left off. Atlanta controlled possession and D.C. United struggled to find legitimate chances. After patiently waiting, the Five Stripes once again found a breakthrough midway through the half.

Miguel Almiron received a pass from Julian Gressel at the top of the 18-yard-box in the 73rd minute and blasted it past David Ousted into the top left corner of the net. Atlanta struck again moments later when a cross from Almiron off a short corner found Villalba. Villalba flicked the ball into the side netting at the far post for a 3-0 Atlanta lead.

Atlanta surrendered a fluky goal to Darren Mattocks in the 86th minute after a pass from Yamil Asad deflected directly to Mattocks for an easy finish inside the box for the final goal of the game.

Along with the formation change, the Five Stripes cited last week’s wake up call against Houston as the catalyst for a revitalized effort against D.C.

“I think last week we were half asleep,” Jeff Larentowicz said post game. “One thing we focused on was really getting that commitment. That was the word on the board all week, ‘Commitment’. Committing ourselves and playing with conviction. Doing the things that we do best. Last week we were second guessing ourselves and this week we wanted to put that away.”

It may not completely erase the feelings from last week’s shellacking against Houston but the team certainly put in a performance on the opposite end of the quality spectrum against D.C. Atlanta placed six shots on target to D.C.’s one and seemingly controlled the game from the first whistle. The tactical decision to switch to a 3-5-2 played a large part in that, even there’s still a few things to work on.

“It’s definitely still a learning process, especially defensively. I think even today I was sometimes a little out of position,” Julian Gressel said. “But I think today we did a pretty good job and obviously kudos to Tata for the terrific game plan.”

Tata’s terrific game plan may have come from necessity. With a Carlos Carmon-sized hole still in the midfield, the switch to the 3-5-2 helped mask some of the defensive insecurities exposed against Houston.

“Today we wanted to get more bodies in the midfield and we wanted to get Tito up front and then Miguel, Jeff and Nagbe closing down the midfield.” Tata said. “We lost a key piece of that partnership last year that we had with Carmona and Larentowicz and so we’re trying to fill that void that he left with the formation.”

With the win, the Five Stripes filled another kind of void. The void in our hearts. Because finally. After all that we’ve been through. The ups and downs. The New England’s and the Columbus’s. After all that. We can finally say we BEAT D.C. THE CURSE IS DEAD. WE’RE UNSTOPPABLE. IN YOUR FACE ACOSTA. BURN IN HELL RFK. WE’RE FREE Y’ALL. WE’VE REACHED THE MOUNTAINTOP OF SPORTING ACHIEVEMENT. WE HAVE BEATEN D.C. UNITED. WE DID IT, Y’ALL. AND WE DID IT TOGETHER. FINALLY. FINALLY. Finally...