ATLANTA — It felt like old times at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday night, as Atlanta United secured a decisive 3-1 victory at home against New York City FC before another record-breaking crowd.
Josef Martinez returned to his Golden Boot-winning ways with a brace, while Miguel Almiron scored off a free kick, the first in a competitive match since his academy days according the Paraguayan.
With the win, the Five Stripes won the club’s first MLS Cup Playoff series and secured a spot in the MLS Eastern Conference Championship against the New York Red Bulls.
“This is very important for us, but we have to keep our feet on the ground because we know we haven’t won anything yet,” Almiron said through a translator following the match.
“It’s important,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan about the win over NYCFC, before adding it was just a first step. “Our goal is to win MLS Cup. This is one step along that way.”
The confidence boost comes after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Toronto FC to close out the regular season, a loss that allowed the Red Bulls to claim the Supporters’ Shield.
Asked about what has changed since that match at BMO Field, Parkhurst pointed to his team’s improved mentality.
“We were too soft in that game against Toronto, we were too naive,” he said. “Right away with New York we set the tone, that physically we were going to be in the game, that we weren’t going to back down, that we were going to win the fight. I thought we did that over both games, and in the end, our soccer won out.”
Guzan described the past two wins, which had more than their fair share of fouls for both sides, as “scrappy, hard-fought battles.”
“In Toronto we never showed up,” he said. “We thought it was going to be given to us and it surely wasn’t. If the game calls to battle and fight and get after it, then we showed that we can do that.”