New York City FC vs. Atlanta United Conference Semifinal Preview
New York City FC are hoping to carry momentum from a Knockout Round win over the Philadelphia Union into the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals when they host high-flying Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium Sunday night.
While NYCFC have beaten the Union in back-to-back games by identical 3-1 scorelines in the Bronx, as the No. 2 seed, Atlanta United earned a bye into the Conference Semifinals and are hoping to rebound from a 4-1 defeat in Toronto on Decision Day presented by AT&T that resulted in their Supporters’ Shield hopes going up in smoke.
NYCFC and Atlanta United played to a pair of stalemates during the regular season. At Mercedes-Benz Stadium in April, Greg Garza and Chris McCann gave the Five Stripes leads in each half, but David Villa (PK) and Alex Ring equalized twice in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
At Yankee Stadium in June, Josef Martinez gave the visitors the lead three minutes into the second half, but Alex Callens leveled in the 77th minute, scoring at the far post after Villa flicked on a Maxi Moralez corner kick in a 1-1 draw.
New York City FC
NYCFC advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinal Series for the third consecutive year after defeating the Union, 3-1, in the Knockout Round Wednesday night.
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi put the Cityzens in front on 10 minutes with a stunning left-footed volley from outside of the box. The hosts doubled their lead in the 26th minute when Moralez slipped a perfect ball to Villa, who finished low. Moralez, who had a pair of assists, put the game away in the 78th minute when he chipped Andre Blake.
“We are confident at home. For me, in my opinion, it’s much better to play at home against Atlanta,” Villa said. “Now, Atlanta is an amazing team, they did very well all of the season, but when we played against them, we hurt them a lot in some moments. They did as well against us and I believe that on Sunday we’ll be ready to take a good result for going to Atlanta with confidence.”
For most of the season Atlanta United were the best team in Major League Soccer. But they were leapfrogged by the New York Red Bulls on Decision Day following a stunning loss to Toronto FC.
Lucas Janson and Marky Delgado gave the hosts a 2-0 lead after 21 minutes. Martinez scored his 31st goal of the season with a penalty kick in the 77th minute to give Atlanta late life, but Janson and Sebastian Giovinco scored five minutes apart late to spoil what would have been a historic moment for ATLUTD.
Now they look to turn the page and try to make a different kind of history by winning their first playoff game with or without Miguel Almiron, who missed the final two regular season games with a hamstring injury.
“Something new is starting. It has nothing to do with the regular season and what ended today. This season, putting aside the game tonight, we did very well but now we have to focus on the playoffs. We have to try to make sure that what took place in the last 90 minutes doesn’t have an effect on our performance.”