A club record crowd of 72,035 fans saw all of Atlanta United’s centerpieces take control of D.C. United from start to finish.
Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Hector Villalba all found the back of the net as Atlanta took down D.C. by a 3-1 score. It was a perfect way to start their home campaign against a team that beat them thrice last season.
The match opened up with Atlanta United in full control. Within the first 20 minutes, all the usual suspects had solid chances at the first goal. Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez both had near misses. Oniel Fisher had to clear a Jeff Larentowicz header off the line from a corner.
It was Martinez providing the first fireworks of the match in the 24th minute. A quick move down the right flank began with a pass from Darlington Nagbe to Hector Villalba, who picked out a sliding Martinez on the doorstep for the simple finish and a 1-0 lead to the home team.
That would remain the score after 45 minutes, but that didn’t accurately display Atlanta’s dominance. They controlled 60% of possession in the first half and out-shot D.C. nine to one, with the lone away attempt coming off ac corner as the last action of the frame.
The second half lacked the fury of the first. D.C. was able to control more of the run of play, but still failed to produce a truly threatening chance. Atlanta, meanwhile, sat back and adopted a quick counter-attacking mentality.
One of those quick attacks managed to provide a much needed second goal in the 73rd minute. Julian Gressel picked out Almiron at the top of the penalty area, which allowed last year’s Newcomer of the Year to smash a shot into the top corner to double the Atlanta advantage.
Minutes later, they put the game away when Almiron whipped in a cross to Villalba for wonderful headed finish, giving Atlanta their first win of the season in front of a raucous home crowd.
Darren Mattocks did give D.C. a consolation goal in the 86th minute, but it was too little, too late.
Atlanta United will remain at home for a match against the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday evening while D.C. United will head to their first “home” match of the year against the Houston Dynamo at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds, Maryland on St. Patrick’s Day afternoon.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Miguel Almiron did exactly what we got used to seeing him do all last season with Atlanta United. The young Paraguayan scored a thunderous goal before providing a picture perfect assist a few minutes later.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Miguel Almiron’s electric finish for Atlanta’s second goal shut down the building levels of hope D.C. United were experiencing. The visitors appeared to be growing into the game after the break and, although they hardly threatened to score, this goal really shut down their hopes.
MATCH TO FORGET
Steve Birnbaum is the veteran presence in the D.C. United defense and he will need to be much, much better than he was on Sunday going forward. He struggled to deal with all the firepower coming from the Atlanta attack and didn’t exactly provide the direction and leadership you would expect from a man in his position.