Every streak has to end: A D.C. United preview

Jarrett Smith
March 09, 2018 - 4:02 pm
Greg Garza

© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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Atlanta United was a very fun team in 2017.

I feel like we can all agree on that statement without too much fuss.

We can also agree that it was almost hilarious that Atlanta suffered three Wile E. Coyote-like defeats against D.C. United and I’m still not sure how they all happened. At least, it would have been hilarious if it were not for the fact that even one of those games going the other way puts Atlanta in a situation where they avoid Columbus and their hot playoff run in a one-off match.

It is said that streaks are made to be broken and it would be really wonderful if Atlanta was able to end this one Sunday afternoon. It is certainly possible, so let's take a look at how Atlanta can possibly make that happen.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

D.C. United has gone through some additions and changes over the last year but one things remains the same: they do not particularly want to possess the ball and will be happy to hit you on the counter. This was a problem last week and Atlanta would be wise not to give the ball up in terrible spots again.

D.C. made a killing early in their match against Orlando hitting on the counter and terrorizing their opponent when they misplaced a pass. If this sounds familiar then you too watched what happened in Houston. That said, Atlanta will not have every single mistake punished for a goal all season, but this week they will have to deal with Jamaican Striker Darren Mattocks who is more than capable of terrorizing Atlanta.

Mattocks will not necessarily provide the physical power that Alberth Elis did last week for Houston but he still an insane athlete that is more than capable of creating chances out of nothing in a similar way that Tito Villalba is capable of. If there is a weakness in what Mattocks does, it is the moments when his touch lets him down. Atlanta will want to hope that this happens if he finds himself with the ball and acres of space in front of him. And if things do not pan out with Mattocks, the Patrick Mullens Experience is always an option.

In the midfield D.C. has roughly 500 players available. There are times where you may wonder if they used a green screen and computers to create that many midfielders but no, they do in fact have that many available.

Yamil Asad is one of them, and while that still hurts some fans to deal with, do not forget what he did for Atlanta last year and what he could do for D.C. against Atlanta. Luciano Acosta may or may not be the end result of animating an M-80 firecracker and giving it a tireless motor and impressive skill on the ball. Ulises Segura and Paul Arriola can also terrorize you in the midfield and both are examples of how this team has gotten younger and/or better over the last calendar year.

Sitting behind them will most likely be Junior Moreno, another young international (this time from Venezuela) who will be asked to shield the back line in what will most likely look like a 4-1-4-1. When healthy, Russell Canouse will absolutely be fun to watch in that role, but he is still wrestling with a sprained knee so Moreno it is. If things go according to the script he will be busy making sure there is not too much space between the back line and the midfield and could be important in triggering counters for D.C.

Sitting on the back-line Frederic Brillant and Oniel Fisher were brought in to stabilize things with holdovers Steve Birnbaum and Nick DeLeon. DeLeon can be fun if he gets forward and Chris Durkin is lurking for minutes on a defense that was a mess in 2017. Bill Hamid bailed out this defense more than a few times last year but he is gone and David Ousted may or may not be asked to stand on his head.

If Atlanta can take care of the ball Sunday afternoon, there is no reason not to feel confident that they can navigate the D.C. defense and put some shots on frame. As bad as Houston looked on the scoreboard, Atlanta should have put at least two goals on the board and that is reasonable to ask for here. An early goal might bring Mercedes-Benz to the ground and get Atlanta back on the right foot. Or the left foot, if Miggy is involved.