Déjà vu. Today marked the highly anticipated rematch between Atlanta United FC and New York City FC, two of Major League Soccer’s newer expansion sides that are praised for their positive, attacking style of play. Atlanta United looked hungry for revenge and responded to their 3-1 loss at Yankee Stadium with a 3-1 win of their own at Bobby Dodd Stadium. They were the better team throughout the match and were ruthless in front of goal, taking their chances and creating problems all match for NYCFC’s backline.
NYCFC got off to a solid start in the first 15’, creating a few chances going forward, most notably through David Villa who ultimately scuffed his shot, and the defense did well to break up Atlanta’s attacks. City looked poised and seemed to be heading towards the opening goal of the game, but things turned quickly.
Atlanta opened up the scoring in the 16’, through their 23-year-old designated player, Miguel Almiron. The Paraguayan, coming off a hat trick against the Houston Dynamo, proved to be the difference maker tonight as his movement, quick change of pace, and quality in front of goal gave the NYCFC backline fits throughout. Atlanta took advantage of a mistake from Alexander Ring, countering quickly as Julian Gressel found space behind Ben Sweat on the right flank, dribbling into the box and squaring it up to Almiron for the left-footed finish. 1-0 to the home side.
Just three minutes later, Hector Villalba scored his fifth goal of the season through a beautiful right-footed curler from just inside the left edge of the box, capitalizing on another precise and deadly Atlanta counterattack. 2-0 to Atlanta.
Atlanta wasn’t finished. Almiron scored yet again in the 23’ for his 7th goal of the season, (his 5th in two games). A clearance from Atlanta United’s defender ended as a foot-race between Atlanta’s Gressel and NYCFC’s Alexander Callens. Gressel won the ball as Callens went down looking for a whistle that wouldn’t come. Gressel grabbed his second assist of the game as he set up Almiron for another easy finish. The visitors were irate that no foul was given as Gressel looked to have clipped Callens on the play, but the referee was having none of it. The first half ended 3-0.
NYCFC saw more of the ball in the second half, but weren’t able to create any threatening chances as Atlanta looked happy to absorb pressure and look to counter, particularly as NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira made positive substitutions. Vieira brought on the more attacking-minded RJ Allen for Ethan White, Sean Okoli and Thomas McNamara for Mikey Lopez and Ben Sweat.
Ben Sweat was able to make a key contribution before his substitution, delivering a pin-point cross from the right side to Jack Harrison who made the first-time volley look easy. NYCFC pulled one back, but it was too little, too late.
Atlanta saw the game out, making some defensive substitutions of their own and NYCFC struggled to create any opportunities outside of the Harrison goal. Atlanta coasted to the 3-1 win and were the better side in this match. A well-deserved 3 points for Atlanta, who responded well to NYCFC’s 3-1 win with their own, convincing performance.
Man of the Match (for NYCFC)
Jack Harrison was the only threat for NYCFC this match, creating several half-chances and making runs in behind throughout the match. NYCFC were unable to capitalize, but Harrison was still able to find a goal for himself in a match that NYCFC struggled to create anything. The goal marked Harrison’s fifth of the season, which saw him pass his four-goal tally from last season.
The New England Revolution will pay a visit to Yankee Stadium this Wednesday, May 31. New England is coming off a tough 2-1 defeat to the NY Red Bulls just last night, but won their two previous matches against Columbus and Real Salt Lake, including a 4-0 win against the latter. The Revolution are currently sitting in 9th place in the Eastern Conference with 16 points, but are just 4 points behind 3rd place NYCFC. We’re just about at the mid-point in the MLS season, and this is the time when teams pick up their play as they look to get into postseason form. Both teams will be coming off a tough loss and looking to right the ship. Stay tuned…