Since leaving Ajax in 2016, new Atlanta United manager Frank De Boer has struggled in the early portions of his managerial tenures. He lost to Chievo in his first Serie A match in charge of Inter, he lost all four Premier League matches while leading Crystal Palace, and now he has a loss to begin his Major League Soccer tenure.
D.C. United found goals from Paul Arreola and Luciano Acosta on each side of the halftime break to win 2-0 its first match of the season and hand Atlanta a loss in the opener for the second straight year.
While Atlanta held more possession throughout the match, they managed just nine total shots with only two on target. Meanwhile, D.C. United whipped off 16 shots with six on target, keeping Brad Guzan busy. Acosta ran the midfield and was a constant threat for the Atlanta back line to deal with.
The match was scoreless until first-half added time when a corner swung in for D.C. and found the feet of Wayne Rooney on the doorstep. While he was unable to put the ball into the back of the net under heavy pressure, his mis-hit effort trickled to Arreola at the near post for a power blast and the lead.
Out of the break, the hosts doubled the lead through Acosta as the Argentinian whipped a long-range knuckler that swerved enough to throw Guzan off balance, wrong-footed and left to watch the ball roll past him into the back of the net. It was a bad moment for Guzan in a match where all eyes were on his performance after fellow USMNT international Bill Hamid had choice words before the match. “I’m better than Brad Guzan,” Hamid said on Sunday before the game.
Atlanta was never able to find a way back into the match, unable to complete a single pass in the penalty area all match despite a nearly 150 pass advantage throughout the match. D.C. United also doubled Atlanta United up on chances created, with the home side putting together 10 key passes to Atlanta’s five. Acosta and Arreola, the two goalscorers, also combined for five of D.C.’s 10 key passes as they were instrumental in the build-up.
The loss for Atlanta is not concerning at this point, given they fell 4-0 to Houston in last year’s season opener. They bounced back from that in extraordinary fashion, with a run of seven wins in eight matches before their next loss. It remains to be seen if De Boer can emulate the success under Gerardo Martino last year, but there is plenty to improve on after this performance.
For D.C., this result gives credence to fans who were excited to see if the club could recreate the success they had to finish out last season, hoping to carry that over to a full campaign.