The Black-and-Red closed last season with a furious run to make the post season. One of the questions surrounding the team, a very fair one at that, was whether they would be able to pick up where they left off. Even Head Coach Ben Olsen stated that he “didn’t know” in regards to that question during the post game press conference. His team answered that with a yes in front of a cold and wet crowd of 16,942. D.C. United beat the reigning MLS Champions, Atlanta United FC 2-0. Both Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta scored for the home side, the vibe from D.C. United following the win was that it was just indeed, one game.
Olsen’s group answered that question from the opening whistle, they pressed the visitors and kept the ball in their end for much of the half. Several chances were created by D.C. United, but they didn’t break through until stoppage time in the first half(46th minute). On their seventh corner of the half, Wayne Rooney played the ball into the box and Lucho got a foot on the ball. At first it looked like an attempt at just getting his foot on the ball, but watching the replay it seemed more like a pass. Paul lost his defender and pounced on the loose ball, knocking it past Brad Guzan.
Acosta would score in the 58th minute. Collecting the ball right outside of the box, surprisingly with space. He hesitated for a moment before unleashing a shot towards the far post. With the conditions, the ball was taking some turns and this was one of those instances as it seemed to move on Guzan.
Atlanta made a few changes and they definitely had a bit more life over the last 20, 25 minutes of the game. They were on the ball a bit more, creating a couple of chances, but never anything really threatening.
Both Leonardo Jara and Lucas Rodriguez made their debuts against Atlanta, they played well and showed their worth quite early in the game. Up next for D.C. United is a road match against NYCFC, while Atlanta hosts FC Cincinnati.
Fluid attack. There was a fluidity to the attack that was a bit new. Last season, it felt like mostly everything had to be run through Lucho or Rooney. Several times tonight, others initiated plays and were on the finishing end of sequences as well. Both Acosta and Rooney dropped further back into midfield to collect the ball and initiate attacks. They were able to do so with Arriola, Rodriguez, Jara, and Mora filling those gaps. They seemed to add to the style of play in which they finished last season with.
Switching fields. This is something the team did at times last year, but only a few players did it on a regular basis. Again, only one game, but this literally goes hand in hand with the previous point about the attack. It varies the way D.C. United plays and most importantly that’s allowed Arriola to get more involved out wide. At times last season, he was open out wide and the ball never found him. It did quite often last night.
Shape. Just the first game of the regular season, but I was thoroughly impressed how well the team did in this regard. There were a couple moments, but for most of the game Canouse and Moreno did a great job in the middle of the park and the backline seemed to be on one accord.