WASHINGTON – After the first 17 minutes of D.C. United’s 2-1 victory over Atlanta United on Wednesday night, Patrick Nyarko had already sent a header wide from close range. He saw his incisive pass wasted when Sebastien Le Toux dragged an effort wide of the post.
Even so, and even with D.C. having failed to score from open play over their last seven matches, the veteran winger knew this night would be different.
“I wasn’t concerned at that point because of the way we were playing,” Nyarko said postgame. “Turning them over, creating chances. I knew eventually one was going to go in.”
If you take Nyarko at his word, it was an impressive amount of faith considering D.C. entered Wednesday with a 1-5-1 mark over their last seven matches and on a four-match home winless stretch.
And yet sure enough, Luciano Acosta equalized six minutes later to end the Black-and-Red’s run without a goal from open play at 688 minutes. Then after rattling the crossbar minutes earlier, Nyarko smashed home a 60th-minute volley to secure a desperately needed and thoroughly deserved victory.
“I liked that we scored a few goals, I liked that we won, I like that we went down and came back,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. “I think it’s an easy game to throw your hands up early. We played, I thought, very well in the first half. We just turned off on one play and they punished us for it.”
Nyarko quickly pointed out just how much work is left for D.C. to secure a fourth consecutive trip to the MLS postseason. They jumped out of the Eastern Conference basement and up to ninth place with the victory, but now begin a four-match road swing that includes visits to Western Conference powers Seattle and Dallas.
“The guys played really well today, and they should enjoy this, but there’s no way we should be satisfied,” Nyarko said. “We’ve got to go get more. We want to have this feeling that we’re feeling today, we want to feel it more and start climbing up the table.”
Atlanta, meanwhile, were left to rue a second defeat to D.C., after falling to a fairly stunning 3-1 home loss against them back on April 30. Five of D.C.’s league-worst 12 goals have come against the Five Stripes.
“I like to recognize the opponents we play, but I think in these two individual games against D.C., our errors were what cost us,” Atlanta coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said.
Olsen had a different take.
“I think they were two different games,” he said. “The first game, I think we were under it much more. It was just a case of hitting them in transition and kind of counter-punching them. Today I thought it was a much more even game. I think our ability to trust each other with the ball was as good as I’ve seen [from] this group this year.”