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Three things we learned from D.C. United’s 3-1 loss to Atlanta United

Jul 21, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; D.C. United defender Frederic Brillant (13) clears the ball after a scramble in front of the net against Atlanta United during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The magic of Audi Field ran out when D.C. United traveled more than 600 miles south to Mercedes-Benz Stadium en route to a 3-1 loss against Atlanta United. Blockbuster signing Wayne Rooney did not perform up to expectations and left United struggling against the speed and power of Atlanta’s offense, led by hat-trick scoring Josef Martínez. 

Here are three things we learned from United’s loss to Atlanta:

Rooney’s rough ride

United coach Ben Olsen elected to stay in the 4-1-4-1 formation heading into Atlanta. In a formation all too familiar to the United fans, Olsen made one major adjustment, adding in Rooney as the lone striker. 

In his first start of his MLS career, Rooney played 66 minutes — twice the amount of time he played in his first ever MLS appearance. Last week, Rooney dazzled the crowd and made the game look too simple. This week, the 32-year-old former Manchester United star completed 15 of 20 passes and mishandled a crucial pass in United’s half. Minutes before Atlanta’s first goal, Rooney gave up a critical pass while the rest of his team looked toward the attack. The giveaway led to Atlanta’s early equalizer and erased United’s early lead.

Arriola continus central consistency 

In April, midfielder Paul Arriola received his first career red card. The disciplinary action turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Arriola and his team. 

Although Arriola started 2018 in his natural wing position, Olsen chose to move Arriola centrally. Since the switch, Arriola has had a point or assist in seven of the last nine matches. In the counter attack, Arriola and outside midfielder Zoltan Stieber sprinted toward Alanta’s backline. Just outside the 18-yard box, Arriola laid off a pass for Stieber to score the opening goal in the 8th minute.

Arriola now has seven assists this season. 

Defensive holes

United has scored 27 goals this season, several of which have come in the first 20 minutes. The problems happen when the opposing teams apply sustained pressure to United’s backline. United switched around its defense to accommodate for injuries for the majority of the season.

Atlanta’s attack, led by Martínez’s hat trick performance, was able to get behind United’s backline on two goals.

On the final goal, defenders Joseph Mora and Frédéric Brillant both mistimed their slides, and collided with each other instead of Martínez.

The answer for United’s defensive woes could come in the secondary transfer window that closes in August.

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