Atlanta United put together a strong fight at Red Bull Arena and was arguably the better side for 80 minutes on Thursday, but the 5-Stripes conceded two late goals, including one in the 89th minute, and fell 2-1 to New York Red Bulls in the first of back-to-back road matches against New York clubs.
First Half – Gonzalo Pineda sends out three center backs to manage Red Bulls’ high press, Luiz Araújo nearly finds the net
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda went with a more defensive starting XI, opting to start the match with attacking players Josef Martínez and Marcelino Moreno on the bench. The five-man backline consisted of Alex De John, Alan Franco and George Campbell as the center backs with Caleb Wiley and Aiden McFadden, making his second consecutive start, filling in on the flanks.
The Red Bulls dictated their high pressing style of play right off the bat, forcing Atlanta United to start their attack deep in their defensive third. But both teams played true to form. Atlanta United dominated possession (62.7%) and connected more passes (84.5%) while the Red Bulls finished the first 45 with more shots (7-4) and duels won (34-28).
The 5-Stripes had their first good chance in the 27th minute. Midfielder Franco Ibarra fed striker Ronaldo Cisneros’s vertical run with a ball over the top. Cisneros had a good look at goal from close-range, but his first-touch shot off the bounce sailed high.
Luiz Araújo nearly had the opening goal at Red Bull Arena in the 32nd minute. His friend and fellow Brazilian Matheus Rossetto passed to Araújo making a diagonal run. The left-footed attacker had a 1-v-1 situation and took the first shot on goal of the night, but Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel made the save.
Atlanta United’s defense held their own, coming up with 13 clearances and stopping two dangerous attempts by the Red Bulls in the final minutes of the first half.
To close out the half, Ibarra was issued a yellow card, his fifth of the season, which means he will miss Atlanta’s next match on Sunday against New York City FC due to yellow card accumulation. Araújo also had a massive opportunity to put Atlanta ahead, receiving a brilliant pass from McFadden, but his final touch eluded him and he missed the shot wide.
Second Half – Josef Martínez makes history with first goal at Red Bull Arena, but Red Bulls fight back
A brilliant chance developed for the 5-Stripes in the 53rd minute. The play built up from the Araújo and Rossetto in the midfield, and the attack pieced together several passes. The ball ended up with Cisneros just outside the box and his shot on goal required a save from Coronel.
In the 63rd minute, Josef Martínez checked in for Cisneros.
Then, Atlanta United found its first-ever goal at Red Bull Arena. Araújo built up the play with a through ball to Wiley. The defender chipped the ball across the box. On the far post, McFadden headed it inside the six-yard box. Midfielder Emerson Hyndman tapped a shot right at the goal line that was blocked, and it was Martínez who finished off the rebound to give Atlanta United the 1-0 lead in the 75th minute.
The goal was Martínez's fourth of the season.
But the lead didn’t last long for the 5-Stripes. The Red Bulls drew a foul in the box on a hard tackle by Wiley and midfielder Lewis Morgan converted the penalty kick to even the match at 1-1 in the 83rd minute.
Then, an Atlanta United mistake led to a takeaway for the Red Bulls. Forward Serge Ngoma scored the go-ahead goal in the 89th minute, squeezing a low-driven ball past Ríos Novo, to steal a chance for the 5-Stripes to earn a road result.
Up Next – Atlanta United concludes New York trip on Sunday
Atlanta United finishes out the extended road trip to New Jersey/New York with a matchup against the reigning MLS Cup champion New York City FC on Sunday, July 3. The club will have Thiago Almada back for that match, who served a three-match suspension for a red card.
Then, Atlanta United returns home on July 9 to face Austin FC. It's a full-venue match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so secure your seat today.
Josef Martínez scores opening goal at Red Bull Arena