Atlanta United traveled to face New York City FC on a chilly evening in the Bronx. After a red card left the visitors with 10 men on the pitch for most of the second half, Atlanta United scored and conceded once to hold on and earn a gutsy result at Yankee Stadium. The 5-Stripes head back to Atlanta with a hard-fought point, bringing them up to 14 total on the season.
Head coach Gonzalo Pineda started the same XI he did last week in the 1-0 win over Red Bulls. That meant Homegrown Caleb Wiley started at left fullback and Derrick Etienne Jr. on the wing. Andrew Gutman was available on the bench for the 5-Stripes. The defender has been out for the past couple of weeks due to an adductor injury he sustained in the match in Columbus.
After a fairly even and scoreless first 45, the match shifted after the red card was issued to Atlanta United's Franco Ibarra. The midfielder made a hard challenge on New York City's James Sands that sent both players to the ground. After review, the referee issued a red card to Ibarra in the 62nd minute, which left the 5-Stripes with 10 men on the field for a majority of the second half.
Going one man down didn't deter the 5-Stripes, and Atlanta United opened the scoring soon after. Thiago Almada sent a corner kick into the box that was knocked back his way toward the corner flag. He dribbled toward the box with open space then lofted the ball to the far post. Giorgos Giakoumakis finished with a flying header to give the visitors the lead in the 70th minute. It was the striker's third goal of the season. Giakoumakis has now scored in all three of his MLS starts.
"I am proud of that because they showed heart, being a man down," Pineda said. "We went ahead at one point. In the ten minutes of stoppage time, they [NYCFC] went on dangerous attacks but other than that, the team controlled the situation well and showed a really strong mentality.”
However, Atlanta United's one-goal lead didn't last long. Two minutes later, New York City's Mitja Ilenic headed a pass to Gabriel Pereira in their attacking third. The midfielder put the ball on his left foot and struck it from the top of the 18-yard box. The shot was firm and well-placed, beyond the diving hands of Guzan, and the match drew even 1-1 in the 72nd minute.
The action started early with Atlanta United earning a penalty outside the box in the first few minutes of the match. Given the small size of the pitch at Yankee Stadium, midfielder Thiago Almada didn't have to put much on his free kick to give Atlanta a chance on goal. He drove a ball into the box and Miles Robinson got his head on it, but the header flew over the crossbar.
There was a scary moment for Atlanta United in the first half when a New York City attacker collided hard with goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Guzan immediately screamed to the sideline, appearing to be in great pain in a scene reminiscent to when Guzan ruptured his Achilles tendon last season. Fortunately, after a few minutes of treatment on the field, Guzan was able to stand back up and remain in the game. And Atlanta United would need their big, bald wall. Guzan finished the night with two saves and led an intense defensive stand in the final minutes of the match to keep New York City from knocking in the game-winner.
Etienne was active in the first half and appeared to score the first goal of the match in the 22nd minute. After receiving the ball over the top, the midfielder laid it off to Almada. The World Cup winner controlled the ball in traffic and took a shot that required a block from New York City goalkeeper Luis Barraza. Etienne finished the rebound but the goal was called back due to Etienne being ruled offsides.
Giakoumakis had some good looks in the first half of play. In the 12th minute, Almada had another go on a free kick from a similar spot as his one to start the game. Giakoumakis slid, nearly enough to redirect the kick toward goal, but eventually the ball was cleared away. Later at the 30-minute mark, fullback Brooks Lennon chased down an ambitious through ball from Almada. Lennon crossed it from the end line, but the timing on Giakoumakis's run wasn't quite right for a shot.
As expected, New York City's leading goal scorer on the season, Talles Magno, sparked the attack for the home side, especially in the first half. He set up a shot that required a diving save from Guzan just as the clock turned over to the 33rd minute. Then later in the half, the Brazilian was charging toward Miles Robinson 1v1. There was space for Magno to take a shot, but Lennon backtracked to tap the ball out of play and prevent a chance.
In what was almost an electric moment for Atlanta United, Almada sent a scorcher across the box on a corner kick. The ball was deflected near post and traveled far post. Amar Sejdić made an impressive diving header to get the ball on frame, but Barraza displayed some quick reflexes to stop what was nearly Sejdić's first goal of the season.
“I am really proud of the dedication, effort, and hard work from the players," Pineda said. "The players played great football. My players did that on a really tough pitch, against a team that is really good."
Up next - Atlanta United travels north of the border
The 5-Stripes make their second consecutive road trip next week on April 15. Atlanta United travels north of the border to take on Toronto FC at BMO Field. It's the second time the two clubs have faced off this season.
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