Atlanta United, NYCFC share mutual respect after "big game of football"

ATLANTA – Patrick Vieira knows a good match when he sees one. As a player, the French World Cup winner competed at the highest levels for club and country, and he’s steered New York City FC through some big games in his time as manager.

And in Vieira’s words, Sunday night’s 2-2 draw between NYCFC and Atlanta United FC was a “big game of football.”

“Tactically, I think it was a higher game of football,” Vieira said after the match. “You have talent on both teams, and of course the atmosphere, the stage makes it even bigger. For us, I think playing a few days ago, coming here and taking a point. I am really proud, I am really happy of the team because it wasn’t easy at all.”

Atlanta manager Tata Martino also offered praise for the high level of play from both teams – especially his own.

“From my point of view, it’s possible this was the best game that our team has played since I’ve been here,” Martino said through a translator during his post-match press conference.

The two teams traded punches like two heavyweights, with Atlanta striking first, only to see NYCFC equalize, in both halves. The stats tell the same story as the scoreline: NYCFC had five shots on goal to Atlanta’s four, won 51 percent of the duels to Atlanta’s 49 percent, and maintained 55 percent of possession over Atlanta’s 45 percent.

“Personally, I think that’s probably one of the highest-intensity games we’ve had, probably in the past year and a half,” said Atlanta fullback Greg Garza, who scored the first goal of the match off the rebound of a save by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. “That’s a heck of a team out there, New York City.

“It definitely felt like a national team game, the intensity of the game.”

Five Stripes captain Michael Parkhurst, whose foul in the box allowed David Villa to convert a first-half penalty, said it was “probably our most intense game of the season” with a high level of “non-stop action.”

“They were pressing us, we were trying to get after them a little bit on the counter,” he said. “Things were just going quick both ways.”

A headed goal from Chris McCann off a wonderful assist from Miguel Almiron kicked off the scoring in the second frame, but a golazo long-distance blast from Alexander Ring earned a point for NYC.

NYCFC and Atlanta remain in first and second place in the Eastern Conference table, respectively, and will face off again on June 9 at Yankee Stadium.

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