HANOVER, N.J. — It made for one of the best MLS-related memes on Twitter, but that now-infamous post-match handshake — or lack thereof — between New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas and Atlanta United’s Tata Martino is in the past.
Armas doesn’t expect there to be any revisiting of that moment in the first meeting since that 2-0 Red Bulls’ victory in late September when the squads square off in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship Sunday (5 pm ET | ESPN, TSN2, TVAS, ESPN Deportes) in the opening leg at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I think it’s in the past,” Armas said after training on Tuesday. “We have a lot of respect for Atlanta, we have a lot of respect for the job Tata has done. I think we all know, we’re all here because we’re competitors, the highest level of competitors.”
As a refresher, once a decisive win over Atlanta was in the bag, Armas chose the final seconds of that victory to pump up the crowd at Red Bull Arena. He waved his arms and gestured at the crowd, a rare show of emotions that didn’t sit well with Martino or Miguel Almiron.
Martino intercepted Almiron from confronting Armas, who was making his way to the Atlanta technical area to shake hands with the coaching staff. And when Armas reached Martino and offered his hand, Martino declined, instead patting Armas on the shoulder. Armas went on to shake hands with others in the Atlanta technical staff, while thumbing back toward Martino, the image that resulted in numerous memes.
When asked about it after the match, Martino said he skipped the handshake, in part, because “I like coaches with a low profile.”
On Tuesday, Armas reiterated his initial sentiment, that the entire incident was a “misunderstanding” and that he didn’t mean to show up an opponent he respects.
“Postgame, like I said after that last game, was probably just a misunderstanding in the whole situation,” he said. “Again, I understand that they’re competitors, I think they know that we are and we’re going to focus more on what’s at hand there. We have a job to do, we’re going to go there, give everything and appreciate that we have some competitors on the other side that we admire the job they’re doing.”