Atlanta United picked up a dramatic 1-0 win at D.C. United Saturday night thanks to another last-minute goal. Marcelino Moreno’s header wiped out an entirely forgettable 90 minutes and sent the Five Stripes on their way with a surprising three points. Here are a few thoughts on a win snatched from the jaws of a snorefest scoreless draw.
Make no mistake, D.C. United had one main aim for this match. That was to make it dirty and grimey. They were as physical as possible from the opening whistle, not allowing for any flow of play. Their plan worked wonders for the majority of the match as there were very few chances on either end for the duration of regulation. This is to be expected against most teams who know they can’t match the individual talent levels of Atlanta United. That makes it all that much sweeter that their plan fell apart in the last seconds when Marcelino Moreno’s fade away header in stoppage time somehow found its way past Bill Hamid. It was Atlanta’s third straight match with a stoppage time goal to either win or tie the match.
While it’s never fun to see your team participate in a slop of a match, it’s wonderful that this bunch has an instinct to fight to the end no matter how the match may be going. That’s something we really haven’t seen around these parts, even when the team was at the peak of its powers and mainly front-running in 2018. Having that desire and will to never give in will take this team very far.
He may already have a Goal of the Week to his name, but Thiago Almada earned his full debut in this one. His first start for the Five Stripes went rather well as he was one of the most dangerous players on the field for either side. On a more favorable night he easily has one or two assists to show for his efforts. The spectacular moments never came but he was a consistent threat with the ball at his feet even when the play absolutely mudded up by D.C. all night. It’s a bright start and further proof that once he gets up to speed and the team learns how to play with him, Almada should do very well in MLS.
Not Off The Press
One worrisome thing I noticed during this match was just how ineffective Atlanta’s pressing was against D.C., especially in the first half with fresh legs. Any time Gonzalo Pineda’s side tried to turn up the heat and force some mistakes, D.C. seemed to be able to play out of the back with relative ease. A lot of the times it could be done with one single long ball out to wide open player on the wing. I’m not sure exactly where the flaws or cracks came from, but this aspect of the gameplan has to be better, especially on the road when chances will come at a premium. It’s not something that anyone should be losing sleep over at this juncture, just one thing that needs addressing as this marathon of a season rolls on.