Christian Benteke's hat-trick stretched Atlanta United winless streak to six

Atlanta United now joint second with their worst run of form in MLS history
FC Cincinnati v Atlanta United FC
FC Cincinnati v Atlanta United FC / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Atlanta United winless streak continues as they were defeated 3-2 by D.C. United in a nail-biting finish at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium last Saturday. The tricky Argentine Thiago Almada opened the score from the spot in the 16th minute bamboozling the keeper with his hop-skip technique to send the keeper the wrong way. Three minutes later former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke placed a firm header from remarkably close range to restore parity. On the stroke of half time Christian Benteke sent the visitors ahead with a well struck header from 8 yards out to the bottom left corner. ‘Fortune favors the brave' Atlanta leveled the score at 2-2 through an own goal scored by DC United’s Matti Peltola. Christian Benteke gave the traveling supporters who were among the 42000 in attendance something to cheer for with another header from a corner kick to complete his hat-trick in the 55th minute.  

How the game unfolded

Desperately hunting points to stay with the top half of the pack Atlanta made several changes to the team that won 3-0 in a midweek Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup hoping to unsettle DC United. However, coach Gonzalo Pineda reverted to his starting 11 that lost 2-1 to Minnesota a few weeks back.  

The games started at lightning pace with Atlanta the quickest out the blocks and was rewarded in the 16th minute for their slick passing and high pressing game. Giorgos Giakoumakis initiated a foul in the penalty area and was brought down clumsily by D.C. United’s Christopher McVey. Captain Almada converted the penalty smartly by wrong-footing the keeper for a 1-0 lead. That goal marked Almada's third goal of the season and number 20 all-time in the MLS regular season.  

He becomes the third player in Atlanta United history to record at least 20 goals and 20 assists in regular season play since Miguel Almirón and Tito Villalba. Three minutes later former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke brought the visitors level after dispatching a well-timed header from an exquisite Jared Stroud cross. That was Benteke’s 9th goal in 10 matches. The impressive Atlanta started fading rapidly after conceding that goal in the 19th minute. They failed to work the keeper or make in any in rows behind the backline.  

In the 31st minute Aaron Herrera went close after his right footed shot from outside the box narrowly missed the left upright after collecting a sublime through ball from Mateusz Klich. The game trickled away with possession swinging from side to side with both teams searching for the go-ahead goal. Atlanta came close to going ahead in the 39th minute when Saba Lobjanidze crafty right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right was saved in the bottom right corner after collecting a pass from Caleb Wiley.

On the cusp of half time Christian Benteke proved how lethal he is. The combination that was responsible for the first goal was synchronized to the beautiful symphony of traveling supporters. Christian Benteke received a tailored pass with pinpoint accuracy from Jared Stroud he rose above Caleb Wiley to headed home from close range to the bottom left corner to make it 2-1. With their tails high that's how D.C. United enter the half time interval. Meanwhile the Five Stripes licking their wounds as they made a 1-0 lead slipped through their grasp. Coach Gonzalo Pineda ruffled the feathers of his team that is staring down the barrel of their 6th game without a win tying their second longest run with a victory.  

 Immediately he got a welcoming response from his team in the 48th minute Matti Peltola accidentally turned Saba’s shot into goal in his desperate bid to block his shot. With the score tied at 2-2 D.C. went on the probe again with Benteke searching for his hat-trick and his team's third goal. He came remotely close back-to-back in quick succession in the 49th and 50th minute. First Christian Benteke saw his left footed shot from the middle of the box saved in the bottom left corner by Brad Guzan (former Aston Villa teammate), from a Conner Antley pass. The resulting corner kick was flicked on by Matti Peltola to Benteke right footed shot from the edge of the box which flew pass the right post.  

With Benteke constant aerial threat he got it right in the in the 55th minute when he grabbed his hat-trick with a smart header at the back post from a Mateusz Klich with a cross following a corner which was conceded by Caleb Wiley. 

Going behind for a second time in the contest Pineda shuffled the team up in search of an equalizer. He added to the mix MLS veteran Dax McCarty, Winger Xande Silva along with the team's goal scorers in the U.S. Open Cup match, striker Daniel Ríos and midfielder Nick Firmino. Despite the changes it was not enough as Atlanta United could not find their third goal and fell short 3-2 to D.C.  

"In general, this is very different to the previous matches, very different," Pineda said. "The previous five matches normally we're better than the opponent and we were just missing the sharpness. Today, we scored two goals and created a few more, but we need to come back to that and get back to that. This is fixable. We need to regain that vibe of positivity and once we get that back, I think we are going to be fine. It's just a down moment, this one, and we need to correct it." 

Atlanta United still has the all-time MLS series record over D.C. United with a 9-6-2 record and has won five of the seven of their previous meetings.  This is the first of three matches against D.C. United for Atlanta this year. In addition to two MLS regular season meetings, the two Eastern Conference clubs were also drawn into the same group for Leagues Cup which kicks off later this summer. They join Santos Laguna from Liga MX in group East 7. 

Atlanta United will now turn their attention to their next MLS game against Cincinnati FC in an away fixture on Wednesday 15th, 2024