Atlanta United closed up the New York Red Bulls' shop with a stifling defensive effort that allowed them to ease on toward hosting MLS Cup a week from Saturday (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás, TSN, TVAS) despite leaking late for a 1-0 away leg loss.
The home side truly won the tie on the strength of their opening game cruise, but they diligently filed the Eastern Conference title paperwork on Thursday night.
New York Red Bulls
Michael Murillo (5) - The Red Bulls right back helped safely move the ball forward better than anyone along the backline, without ever providing any final third threat. Murillo didn't make many plays in his end, but forced a few turnovers across midfield.
Tim Parker (7) - After a tough opening leg, Parker opened this game by losing track of Martinez just seconds into this game. He recovered very well from there, mostly by pushing up to reclaim balls near midfield. He also got the late goal, but it was mere consolation.
Aaron Long (6.5) - While his passing out of the back often left something to be desired, Long was predictably the model of solidity in shutting down Atlanta advances.
Connor Lade (5.5) - In the early going, the stand-in left back killed a few attacks after getting forward. From there, he mostly stuck to playing some decent defense.
Tyler Adams (6) - For the second game in a row, Adams had considerable bite removed from his game due to a tactical decision. This time, it was Atlanta's willingness to sit deep and break gingerly that blunted his influence some. Not a bad outing by any means, but perhaps not everything it could have been.
Sean Davis (6.5) - The veteran midfielder recovered from a poor first leg outing, to offer decent traffic direction to the final third gates.
Kaku (5) - Yes, he served a nice cross and nearly snuck a goal late. That's the good part. Most of the night, however, Kaku was busy with an array of misfired crosses and overly hopeful chip feeds.
Daniel Royer (4.5) - The left winger was unable to get anything going in the first half. He tried harder after the break, but still couldn't muster much until assisting on Parker's goal.
Alex Muyl (3) - Aside from some track-back stops, it was an empty shift from an energetic presence. Tried as he might, Muyl barely contributed to anything in the final third besides turnovers.
Bradley Wright-Phillips (3.5) - Sure, he lacked service. But the veteran striker contributed to that situation with subpar hold-up play and run selection.
Coach Chris Armas (5) - What can you do, eh? The die were basically already cast going in, and the team worked hard without execution against a team that wouldn't open up.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (5) - It wasn't a poor sub shift, but the speedster certainly did not have the desired affect on the home attack.
Marc Rzatkowski (5.5) - The midfielder played some good balls into the attack, but missed on as many lead attempts.
Andres Ivan (4.5) - Had the ball at his feet in hot spots a couple ties, but couldn't conjure any real threat.
Brad Guzan (5) - The Five Stripes backstop made a few easy saves, but had to be especially alert to keep a late Kaku drive from breaching the short side. Guzan's distribution was off and a night of shaky attempts at cross claims eventually gifted the Red Bulls a goal.
Franco Escobar (6) - Though he followed up his leg one man of the match display with a poor night on the ball, Escobar did the job in defense.
Michael Parkhurst (7.5) - Toss another excellent playoff outing in his file. Nine of Parkhurst's 16 clearances came in the area, and he added nice stops of other varieties, as well.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (9) - How does one say "possessed" in Spanish? Gonzalez Pirez was everywhere, from whistle to whistle. He shut down BWP. He chalked up 26 total defensive stops, most with a highly foreboding nature. He may have sold popcorn for all we know.
Greg Garza (6.5) - With Atlanta in no mood to get runners forward, Garza focused on defending. He did that pretty well with one late notable exception oops. He will need to pass better out of the back against Portland, though.
Jeff Larentowicz (7.5) - Let's get straight to the point: Larentowicz was a glaring "NO" sign in important challenge moments.
Eric Remedi (6) - A full-on tale of two halves. The midfielder was quite ineffective in the opening frame, but after halftime, rallied to forcibly interfere with anyone who entered Zone 14.
Darlington Nagbe (7) - Atlanta's No. 6 shirt was reliable with the ball and helped bottle up Royer. A no-frills professional outing.
Julian Gressel (6.5) - While his attack passing game never heated up, Gressel made himself very useful with a bunch of defensive plays in the Atlanta end.
Miguel Almiron (6.5) - Almiron is another noted Five Stripes producer that made his biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Josef Martinez (3.5) - The record-setter flubbed a first minute chance to put the tie away and didn't hold up well, either.
Coach Tata Martino (8) - Opening the decider up three, the Atlanta boss opted to back this thing into the garage. Safety first did the job.
Hector Villalba (6) - The man they call Tito got loose on the prowl a couple times during his 20 minutes of play.
Ezequiel Barco (-) - Not even time for a cup of coffee.
Miles Robinson (-) - A last-ditch injury sub.