MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United sat atop the MLS standings in the race for the Supporters’ Shield for almost the entire 2018 season, but famously fell short on the last day. Now, the Five Stripes will be looking to get one over on the team that took that trophy away from them, the New York Red Bulls, in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The matchup is just as a screenwriter would’ve penned it. Not only did New York snatch the Supporters’ Shield trophy away from Atlanta and set a new season points record in the process, but the Red Bulls dominated a match between the two sides late in the season that kept their hopes alive.
Atlanta will surely be hoping to rid themselves of those bad memories from Red Bull Arena on September 30 that saw them leave with a 2-0 loss as the Red Bulls kept pace with them in the homestretch.
“It's an awesome opportunity for us. We let one trophy slip away this year already, and I think the team is really hungry for one,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst told media Friday morning. “We're banking on the experience of playing them not too long ago, the Toronto game [when we lost on the final day of the regular season], and the experience [of winning a playoff series] against New York City and what it takes to win in the playoffs.”
Atlanta United left back Greg Garza said the team is hoping to lean into the loud and energetic home support to help fuel the team in what is bound to be a massively important first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship on Sunday, Nov. 25 (5 pm ET | ESPN, TSN, TVAS).
“More so than personal redemption, I think for us it's about doing this for the city of Atlanta,” Garza told media Friday. “I think the stadium we have and the people that support us is something definitely to look forward to. Hopefully our fans can bring the [energy] in this coming game next Sunday. We want to add to Tata's legacy and for ourselves' as well.”
If there was any sentiment of complacency in the teams’ matchup earlier this season, there’s certainly none now that Red Bulls have stamped their authority on Atlanta United in two matches this season that have resulted in six points for the Red Bulls.
"They're the best team in MLS history in the regular season, so we have our work cut out for us for sure,” said Parkhurst. “But that doesn't mean we're scared and doesn't mean we don't think we can advance. But we're going to have to be darn near perfect.“