Ezequiel Barco scored a goal and assisted on another as Atlanta United continued their surge up the Eastern Conference table, defeating D.C. United 3-2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The win was Atlanta's third in a row and seventh in eight matches, sending them above D.C. and, at least temporarily, into fourth place in the Eastern Conference table in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs race. D.C, meanwhile, saw their playoff hopes dented as their three-match unbeaten streak came to an end.

Barco struck in the 18th minute with his second free-kick stunner in as many matches, powering it past a lunging Bill Hamid to get Atlanta off and running. D.C. would have made it 1-1 during first-half stoppage time if not for a point-blank save by Brad Guzan on a Russell Canouse header right in front of goal.

D.C. applied pressure throughout the second half as they sought an equalizer, and at the hour mark, Guzan was called upon again, making another big save on an Edison Flores laser from outside the box. But Atlanta doubled their lead moments later when Barco played a slipped pass to Josef Martinez, who finished past Hamid to make it 2-0 for his third goal in two matches.

D.C. responded, though, with just over 15 minutes remaining when Felipe Martins ripped a golazo past a diving Guzan – his first tally since 2019 – to pull within 2-1 and spoil what would have been a third consecutive Atlanta shutout victory.

Atlanta sealed the win, however, thanks to a dazzling run and show of skill by Marcelino Moreno, who fed it in front of goal to George Bello for a simple tap-in.

Flores tacked on a banger of his own in second-half stoppage time, but it was merely a consolation tally for D.C., who suffered their first loss since falling to Atlanta 2-1 on August 21 at Audi Field.

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Goals

  • 18' - ATL - Ezequiel Barco | WATCH
  • 64' - ATL - Josef Martinez | WATCH
  • 75' - DC - Felipe | WATCH
  • 87' - ATL - George Bello | WATCH
  • 90'+4' - DC - Edison Flores | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: It’s yet another win for Atlanta, who continue to send a message to MLS that they're getting hot at just the right time. Suddenly, a playoff match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium doesn’t seem far-fetched. For D.C., they’ll hope that the loss is a mere bump in the road with nine matches remaining on their schedule.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Barco made it back-to-back matches with free-kick golazos, but Moreno stole the show thanks to a brilliant individual effort that produced Bello’s crucial insurance goal.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Barco has been remarkable since returning from the Tokyo Olympics, and that continued on Saturday. In his last nine matches, the Argentine attacker has recorded six goals and five assists.

Next Up

  • ATL: Saturday, Sept. 25 at Philadelphia Union | 3:30 p.m. ET (Univision, TUDN, Twitter
  • DC: Saturday, Sept. 25 vs. FC Cincinnati | 7:30 p.m. ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

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