Atlanta United proved they are in it to win it during their home opener where they defeated D.C. United 3-1 in front of another MLS record breaking crowd of 72, 035. Last Season Atlanta United fell to D.C. United twice leaving D.C. untouched by the five stripes. But this season, with a new roster and new formation, D.C. was left to only play a tough defense against Atlanta’s attack.
The starting line-up included newcomers Franco Escobar, Darlington Nagbe, and Romario Williams, who made his Atlanta United debut at Sunday’s game. The club introduced a new 3-5-2 formation, a deviation from the 4-2-3-1 formation they used against Houston, and the 4-3-3 formation they used most of last season. It wasn’t clear if the new formation made a difference until the second half, and even then, it was Josef Martinez, Miguel Almirón, and Tito Villalba, who led the team into their 3-1 win. Head C
Head Coach Tata Martino said the new formation gave Atlanta United an advantage they didn’t have in the past.
“It’s something we thought was opportune today to try because in Houston I thought we were lacking more bodies in the midfield, and the ability to recover the ball in the midfield,” Martino said. “I think we did a good job in the first 75 minutes of the game and then let off a little bit in the last 15 minutes.”
The first half of the match started with Atlanta United squandering opportunities to score against D.C. United. The chemistry among the players was lacking and it was apparent that even with a new formation, the club was missing Carlos Carmona’s strong midfield game.
“Today we wanted to get more bodies in the midfield. We wanted to have Jeff, Miguel and Nagbe closing down the midfield and Tito upfront. We have to remember we lost a key piece of that partnership with Carmona and Larentowicz,” Martino said. “We’re trying to fill that void we had with the formation, instead of just one player. We’re still looking for ways to fill that, so we tried it with this formation.”
Josef Martinez sacked the first goal in the 24th minute with a counter attack landing the ball perfectly into the back of the net. After a slow start to the second half, Almirón scored in the 73rd minute by holding possession in the midfield, before handing it off to Villalba. After a pass from Julian Gressel, Almirón ran the ball to the edge of the box where he launched a rocket into the upper left corner of the net. Less than two minutes later, Villalba scored his first goal, with a header toward the back post past Ousted who had previously shutdown any attempts to score.
Atlanta United plays Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday March 17 at 7:30p.m at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.