D.C. United bagged a huge three points on Sunday evening, defeating Atlanta United by a 3-1 scoreline while doing what the previous nine teams that have faced the Five Stripes couldn't: keep Josef Martinez off the scoresheet.
A pair of goals on the counterattack from Luciano Acosta and a penalty kick from Wayne Rooney early in the second half were enough to overcome what at times seemed like relentless Atlanta pressure, giving D.C. a dream result against one of the league's best teams after a hearty dose of midweek disappointment against Philadelphia.
After weathering a heavy spell of early Atlanta pressure, D.C. struck first through Acosta. Bill Hamid lofted a goal kick up to Rooney, who flicked the ball into the Argentine's path, and D.C.'s No. 10 made no mistake as he skillfully evaded his defenders and beat Brad Guzan with a low shot.
Acosta's goal opened the game up for both teams, with Atlanta continuing to apply more pressure while also leaving themselves more exposed at the back. That pressure would pay off, as they found their equalizer not long before the break when Jeff Larentowicz redirected an Ezequiel Barco corner kick for his first goal of the season.
D.C. started off the second half hot and were rewarded for their pressure in the 51st minute when Paul Arriola was tripped up from behind by Barco after being played through by Rooney, leading referee Allen Chapman to whistle for a penalty kick. Rooney stepped up and converted the penalty to restore the home team's lead.
Martinez was not without his chances, but the Venezuelan, fresh off claiming sole possession of the MLS single-season scoring record, could not find the range, failing to put any of his three shots on target and being caught offside twice.
Acosta went on to ice the game in the 77th minute, again on the counter, as he ran onto a clever one-time flick from Rooney to go through on goal and beat Guzan low once again. D.C. still had work to do, most notably Hamid, who made two huge saves on Kevin Kratz and Larentowicz to preserve D.C.'s two-goal cushion.
- 28' – DC – Luciano Acosta | Watch
- 39' – ATL – Jeff Larentowicz | Watch
- 52' – DC – Wayne Rooney | Watch
- 77' – DC Luciano Acosta | Watch
- THE BIG PICTURE: There's no understating just how massive this result is for D.C. United. After their midweek tumble and Montreal's win on Saturday, they risked falling nine points behind the playoff line. Now, they're just six points back and have three games in hand on the sixth-placed Impact. Atlanta missed a big chance to retake the Supporters' Shield and Eastern Conference lead, but still have a game in hand on the New York Red Bulls, whom they trail by a sole point in both races.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: D.C.'s third goal not only iced the match after a spell of Atlanta pressure, it was the perfect microcosm of what has sparked their run this summer. Few players but Rooney would've had the awareness and wherewithal to execute that flick, and Acosta, having the season of his life, left no doubt about the rest.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Lucho Acosta scored two very good goals (especially the first), but what will go less recognized is the amount of work he put in elsewhere. Bill Hamid comes in a close second with six huge saves to preserve the win.