ExLink - 11/25/18 - ATLvRBNY

Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Conference Championship, First Leg
Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Atlanta
November 25 — 5 pm ET

They were the two best teams during the regular season and their toe-to-toe battle for the Supporters’ Shield wasn’t decided until Decision Day presented by AT&T. Now, the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United will meet in the Eastern Conference Championship with the winner advancing to, and hosting, the 2018 MLS Cup.

The Red Bulls won both anticipated regular-season meetings this season and are unbeaten in four all-time matchups. On May 20, New York handed the Five Stripes one of their only two losses at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Ezequiel Barco put ATLUTD in front in the 26th minute, latching onto a deflected shot by Miguel Almiron. Josef Martinez had a goal called back following Video Review for fouling Tim Parker on the buildup.

Daniel Royer leveled from the penalty spot three minutes from halftime and Bradley Wright-Phillips, who drew the penalty, scored twice in a span of four minutes early in the second half.

The return fixture four months later was billed as the MLS Game of the Year and the shorthanded Red Bulls prevailed, 2-0, at Red Bull Arena in a dominant performance. Royer again converted from the penalty spot after Chris McCann handled the ball in the box. Parker clinched the victory, which pulled the hosts within a point of Atlanta in the Shield standings, with a 74th-minute tap-in.

The result could have been more lopsided, but Brad Guzan denied Kaku from the penalty spot.

Atlanta United

In front of a record MLS postseason crowd, Atlanta United put the finishing touches on a comprehensive Eastern Conference Semifinals victory over New York City FC, winning 3-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after a 1-0 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Martinez opened the scoring in the 25th minute from the penalty spot and Almiron doubled the lead in the 42nd minute on a free kick. Maxime Chanot gave NYCFC a lifeline just before halftime, but Martinez put the game, and the series, on ice in the 83rd minute.

“It’s big. It’s very important. The club has a mentality that we’re not just a playoff team. We’re a team that qualifies for the playoffs, put ourselves in a good position and took advantage of it,” Michael Parkhurst said after the game. “It’s one thing to get a bye and to avoid the Knockout Round and have the home-field advantage, but it’s another thing to go out there and take advantage of it, and we did that over both games. It’s tremendous to know that the team is capable of doing that against a very good opponent.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: M - Eric Remedi, M - Hector Villalba, F - Josef Martinez, D - Franco Escobar, D - Miles Robinson
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D - Sal Zizzo (right knee injury), D - Mikey Ambrose (right knee surgery), F - Brandon Vazquez (foot injury), D - Chris McCann (left quad strain); QUESTIONABLE: M/D - Jeff Larentowicz (muscular injury)

Projected Starting XI
(5-3-2, right to left)
GK: Brad Guzan — Franco Escobar, Jeff Larentowicz, Michael Parkhurst, Leonardo Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza — Darlington Nagbe, Eric Remedi, Julian Gressel — Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron

  • Notes: Martinez has seven braces since joining the league prior to 2017 (inc. playoffs), including a brace in Atlanta’s last playoff game against NYCFC. This is tied for the most of any player in that time. … Atlanta are unbeaten in its last 11 games at home, including the playoffs (8W-3D). The Five Stripes average 2.4 goals per game during that span while allowing just 0.9 goals per game.

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls rebounded from a 1-0 loss at MAPFRE Stadium in the opening leg to beat Columbus Crew SC, 3-0, at Red Bull Arena in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

After Alex Muyl leveled the series in the 17th minute, Royer struck for a brace three minutes apart late in the second half to secure the win and send the Red Bulls to the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time since 2015.

“I can say that there's a lot of belief in our room, in our locker room,” Chris Armas said after the game. “There’s a lot of belief. And we know that this team is different than ever. I think tonight was another example of that.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: M - Sean Davis
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: M - Florian Valot (torn left ACL), D - Kyle Duncan (torn right ACL), M - Vincent Bezecourt (right MCL surgery), D - Tommy Redding (shoulder surgery), M - Ben Mines (broken left clavicle surgery)

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Luis Robles — Michael Murillo, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence — Tyler Adams, Sean Davis — Alex Muyl, Kaku, Danny Royer — Bradley Wright-Phillips

  • Notes: Kaku has won the ball 31 times this season in the attacking third of the field, the second most of any player in the regular season. He has won the ball in the attacking third seven times against Atlanta United, three more than other opponent. … The Red Bulls are 3W-3L over their last six games on the road in the playoffs. They have been held scoreless in each of those three losses and they averaged two goals per game in the wins.

All-Time Series (Regular Season)


Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Corey Parker
4th Official: Allen Chapman
VAR: Drew Fischer