In back-to-back games, D.C. United has gotten three points by way of own goal. First in Colorado and then last night at RFK against the visiting Atlanta United FC. The 1-0 win gave the Black-and-Red the season sweep of Atlanta and has moved them up the tables a bit as well. They are currently 11 points behind the sixth seeded playoff team, but it’s clear the players don’t feel like the season is yet over. Kofi Opare alluded to just that after the game, saying that their is “still belief” in the group and they feel they can make a run. Despite the goal being an own goal, D.C. United played well and for the third consecutive game, seemed to play with a sense of disposition.
The Black-and-Red didn’t win the possession battle in the first half, but they were organized pretty well on the defensive end. Atlanta didn’t get but one solid look on goal and Bill Hamid was in position on that shot. D.C. United’s attack created a few chances despite having limited possession, two of their newest additions played a role in each of those chances. Lloyd Sam did a great job of creating from the wing as well, lofting a nice ball to Acosta who’s shot to the far post was sniffed out by Brad Guzan. There was a nice sequence in which Paul Arriola and Lucho connected to create a solid attack, but the final touch was lacking. A minute or two before the end of the half, Lloyd Sam found himself with a step on a defender right in front of Guzan, but the keeper did a solid job of closing down on Sam to take away the goal, forcing a corner.
What did stand out when the Black-and-Red had the ball was the effect another good decision maker in the midfield has on freeing up Acosta. He is no longer bearing the same heavy load as the sole creator of attacks with Russell Canouse proving that he can create when he has time on the ball. The two connected after Russell won the ball and found Acosta on the run that resulted with a shot to the far post that was just wide. The decision making and touch from Canouse was new to a team that has tended to move the ball much slower in the past. It’s also allowing Acosta to get out and make runs, putting additional pressure on the defense. D.C. United still has that tendency to knock the ball upfield aimlessly at times and takes too long to switch fields, but the attack definitely looked a bit more varied in the first half.
While the visiting Atlanta United FC continued to dominate possession in the second half, they weren’t able to dictate the tempo. The home side did a much better job of applying pressure, which led to several errant passes by the visitors.
Just a few minutes into the second half, D.C. United got their first goal courtesy of a fortuitous bounce off of Michael Parkhurst. It was headed by Canouse and the ball caromed off Parkhurst’s chest past keeper Brad Guzan. It was Parkhurst’s second own goal this season in Atlanta’s series with D.C. United.
Ben Olsen was proud of the fight and effort of his team, he also said that Canouse played “great” in what was his second game for the Black-and-Red. He did make a brief reference to former midfielder Perry Kitchen when talking about an aspect of Russell’s game. Olsen was happy with the job his team did in transition, they got back to defend and were efficient at times in the counter attack.
Atlanta United FC literally had a couple of chances on goal for the entire game, of their 15 hots, just two were on frame. One in each half, The Black-and-Red took 12 shots, putting six of those on target and eight of those 12 were taken inside the box. It’s been an issue for D.C. United this season, but had that final touch been a bit better, they could have scored a few goals in this game.
Obviously the Black-and-Red would of liked to done better in terms of possession, but it’s evident that their play has improved and a couple of their new pieces are making an impact. Acosta’s effort and work rate last night was outstanding, even in stoppage time he was closing down on players and winning the ball. He’s even been a bit more aggressive in the final third, taking a couple of shots.
Up next for D.C. United, they host the New England Revolution on Saturday night at RFK.
Canouse. He was everywhere from a defensive standpoint and did a great job of opening things up for others. He has a deft touch and processes the game very well, his ability to be calm on the ball and make good decisions frees up Acosta to make runs. There was a sequence in where he won the ball in midfield and played a very nice ball to a streaking Acosta, the play resulted in a missed shot. He literally does all of the little things and it’s made a big difference in the two games he’s played. Still, it was one of those efficient plays in transition that Olsen spoke of after the game.
Acosta. His play in the last few games at least to me, seems to be a direct impact of the players added to the team. With Canouse behind him he’s able to trust him on the ball so that he can get off the ball and make runs. His effort when defending has been impressive as well, I’m anxious to see how the midfield improves once Harkes gets back and Steiber gets into the mix as well. It’s been an extremely small sample size thus far, but it definitely has been a good look so far.
Arriola. It’s still a work in progress as far as his teammates learning how to get the ball to him. There were several instances in the game where he was by himself on the opposite wing from where the ball was and it never found him. D.C. United players have to start getting used to checking that opposite sideline before playing it to the person closest to them, switching fields is a great way to create chances and Paul has a ton of pace. That said, he had a few opportunities to win 1v1 situations, but missed a touch and lost the ball. There were other times when he used his pace to open things up for teammates, look for that relationship to improve in terms of him getting the ball in space.
Back line. D.C. United didn’t have their normal four out there, but the group did a solid job last night. Giving up literally just two chances all night, Opare and Jalen Robinson did a good job of holding things down. Chris Korb and Nick DeLeon played well too, DeLeon was tremendous on his wing. Routinely winning the ball and due to his versatility, he’s calm on the ball after winning it. As a unit they sacrificed there bodies a couple of times as well, blocking shots. It was a solid display of depth and definitely something to build off of if that group has to play again come Saturday.