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Nobody Heads It Better

DC got its first road win of the season last Saturday (May 11) with a 3-2 win over Atlanta United at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta (seen above). Christian Benteke scored all three goals on headers; I don't know that I've ever seen a soccer player more skilled with his head.

A small but loud contingent of DC fans made the trek to Georgia. The away fans were sandwiched in with Atlanta fans, rather than having their own section per MLS policy, but fortunately the natives were friendly. Several DC fans attended the Atlanta pregame tailgate, including Ben and his Richmond friend (left and center, below; yours truly is on the right). Ben deserves kudos for his chanting.

DC started Bono in goal; Dajome, Peltola, Bartlett, McVey and Herrera across the back; Hopkins, Klich and Ted KDP in midfield; and Benteke and Stroud up top (or something like that; our formations tend to be fluid).

Atlanta scored first. McVey went to clear the ball in the penalty area, and Atlanta’s Giorgos Giakoumakis got in front of him and was kicked. A little soft but really undisputable, and Atlanta’s Thiago Almada buried the penalty in the 16th minute. DC wasted no time in responding; Herrera fed Stroud, who crossed to Benteke for a header into the goal. The game was held up by VAR as Dajome may have handled the ball in the buildup. The main referee went to the monitor, which usually means the call is overturned, but elected to stay with the call, and the score was knotted 1-1.

The ageless Brad Guzan (who will turn 40 in September) stopped Ted KDP's good shot in the 40th minute, but in the 44th minute DC took the lead. Stroud crossed to Benteke, but the pass was blocked. It fortuitously bounced back to Stroud, who one-timed a cross with his left foot to Benteke again, and the Atlanta defender (Lennon I believe) was not able to recover in time. Benteke had an easy header to give DC a 2-1 lead, which they took into halftime.

Murrell and Antley came on for Ted KDP and Dajome respectively to start the second half; with 6 games in 3 weeks Lesesne seems to be rotating his squad. Smart guy. Another ageless player, Dax McCarty ( a mere 37; he played for DC in 2011 before being traded) came on at halftime for Atlanta, and seemed to have a positive impact for them. In the 48th minute, a cross from the right side was deflected in by Peltola for an own goal, tying the score at 2-2.

DC responded well; Benteke had a good shot in front of goal that Guzan saved, and then just missed a bicycle kick. Finally, in the 55th minute, Benteke had a gorgeous header off a corner that hit the ground and then the right post before nestling in the back of the net. 3-2, DC.

Atlanta played hard the rest of the game, and ended up with 64% of the possession, but DC stood firm and had many defensive blocks. Pirani came on for Stroud in the 73rd minute; Garrison Tubbs had his first action as a DC player, replacing Hopkins in the 81st minute; and Santos came on for Benteke in the 87th minute. Pirani played well, feeding Murrell (81st minute) and Klich (88th minute) for open shots on goal, but Guzan made nice saves on both. Antley hurt his leg in stoppage time and was not much use for the rest of the game, but DC held on. Very exciting.

The win moves DC into a 3-way tie for 5th place in the Eastern Conference, although it is a little early to start paying close attention to the standings. There are two games this week: Wednesday (May 15) at home against the NY Red Bulls, and Saturday (May 18) in Miami. Fun, fun, fun!


The Nest Liner

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