Match Preview: Atlanta United at New York Red Bulls

Atlanta United’s red-hot form has them on a historic pace as they climb the Eastern Conference standings. BUT they have no time to stop and celebrate with yet another double matchday week and another challenging opponent: the Red Bulls on the road at Red Bull Arena, a place where Atlanta United have yet to win in their history so far. Standing in the way is a Red Bulls side that is having their own surge up the table with three wins in their past four matches.

Make sure to tune in at 5 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1 or FOX Sports GO. For all the details on how to follow the match, click here.

Atlanta United (6-3-2)

After the bumpy start to the season, Atlanta United’s rise up the standings has been meteoric. With six wins out of seven and an MLS record five straight clean sheet wins, the Five Stripes have risen from last place to third, four points off the top of the East with two matches in hand.

While Atlanta’s attack is potent, their recent success has been built on the foundation of a rock-solid defense, with the back line conceding a total of 0 goals in the matches they’ve won this season. Leandro González Pirez and Miles Robinson’s partnership has been dominant in the middle, but Florentin Pogba showed in Vancouver there are more options for Frank de Boer than just those two. Meanwhile, Michael Parkhurst and Brek Shea have found their footing on the left wing, and since Franco Escobar returned from injury to the starting lineup, the Five Stripes haven’t conceded a single goal. Throw in some crucial saves from Brad Guzan and this unit is looking to be as good as any in MLS.

Further up the field, Darlington Nagbe and Julian Gressel are available for selection in the starting lineup after getting some well-deserved rest from the starting lineup on Wednesday. And outside of Ezequiel Barco, who is still away preparing for the U-20 World Cup, Frank de Boer has his full attacking arsenal at his disposal. With Justin Meram showing in Vancouver that he’s fully capable to jump into the starting lineup, it’s yet another classy, technical player that can unlock any defense in this league. If they can get around New York’s famous defensive press, they can create a potential match-winning chance against a team that is always strong on their home pitch.

New York Red Bulls  (4-5-2)

The New York Red Bulls’ early season has in a lot of ways mirrored Atlanta United’s: a clearly talented team that struggled in the early stages of the season due to a couple key injuries and the fixture congestion of the Concacaf Champions League. But with their squad returning to health and only the league to focus on, they are starting to show their own quality with valuable wins that have them sitting just below the playoff line with several matches in hand.

The big question is how manager Chris Armas will line up his team. Last week, he switched out almost his entire starting lineup on the road against FC Dallas, resting players like Tim Parker, 2018 MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long, and Kemar Lawrence –– but ended up coming home with a 3-1 win. Will he return to his long-time first-choice XI, or will he stick to what worked last week? That may hinge in part on the health of Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has been dealing with a muscular injury. Despite his slow start to the season, his goalscoring record in this league speaks for itself.

The bottom line is Armas has plenty of quality players at his disposal, with the aforementioned first-choice players among the MLS Best XI the past few seasons. The offseason loss of Tyler Adams leaves a hole in midfield that’s tough to replace, but the Red Bulls system has dealt with the loss of key players just fine in recent years –– so you can expect more high-pressing defense looking to force mistakes and create chances in transition. The same goes for the attack; while BWP may be questionable, Armas still has the option of Kaku pulling the strings, and as always, Austrian forward Daniel Royer will be a danger every time he touches the ball, leading the team with 2 goals and 3 assists this season.

Sunday night is a clash of two teams that have gone toe to toe in every contest in the past –– so it’s one you don’t want to miss. Make sure to tune in at 5:00 p.m. ET on FS1 or FOX Sports GO, or listen to the match via 92.9 The Game, La Mejor Atlanta or via the Atlanta United App. For more info on how to follow all the action, click here.