New York City FC secured passage to the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, defeating Atlanta United 2-0 at Yankee Stadium in Sunday afternoon's Round One match.
HIGHLIGHTS: New York City FC vs. Atlanta United FC | November 21, 2021
NYCFC will now travel to face the Supporters' Shield-winning New England Revolution on Nov. 30, looking to progress past the Conference Semifinal stage for the first time in their history.
While Atlanta held better possession during the first half, NYCFC gathered themselves and appeared to open the scoring in the 44th minute through Santiago Rodriguez. But the goal was waived off by an offside decision that was later confirmed by Video Review.
NYCFC, though, got their goal early in the second half via Valentin Castellanos. A bouncing volley from the Golden Boot presented by Audi winner awkwardly spun toward the net, catching Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan and his defense completely off guard as the hosts went up 1-0.
The Cityzens doubled their lead in the 53rd minute. Guzan made the initial save on Maxi Moralez's shot, pushing it onto the woodwork, but Alexander Callens was left with an open-net header on the rebound to make it 2-0.
Atlanta had a few chances to equalize but couldn't find the scoresheet as NYCFC advanced, sending the East's No. 4 seed onto the next round.
Adding insult to injury, Atlanta played the remaining seconds without defender Alan Franco, who was sent off in stoppage time after being shown a second yellow card. He'll now also miss the first match of the 2022 campaign.
- THE BIG PICTURE: It’s on to New England for Ronny Delia’s men. The Cityzens had scored the most goals in MLS this season in minutes 45-60, and fittingly that’s where they did their damage as they surged to the next round. Meanwhile, Atlanta have to be applauded for turning a poor start to the season into a playoff berth under head coach Gonzalo Pineda. But a sleepy performance early in the second half means their quest for a second MLS Cup in club history has come to an end.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: This is certainly the most unusual goal Taty Castellanos has scored all season. But it was the breakthrough that set NYCFC on course to victory.
GOAL: Valentín Castellanos, NYCFC - 49th minute
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Maxi Moralez didn’t score, but he was a spark in the NYC attack. His cross to Castellanos set up what was ultimately the match-winner.
- NYC: Eastern Conference Semifinals at New England Revolution | Tuesday, November 30 (7:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes)
- ATL: End of 2021 season