Atlanta United (15-9-8) will look to take one step closer to securing a high playoff seed as well as getting sweet, sweet revenge as they travel to New York Red Bulls (13-12-7) on Sunday. Though both teams have already qualified for the postseason, it’s still a match with a lot on the line as Atlanta hopes to lock down a home game in the playoff and return the favor after the Red Bulls spoiled their MLS opener.
Ahead of Sunday evening’s matchup, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot:
1) Martinez the Menace
Despite missing much of the season with injury, forward Josef Martinez leads his side with 18 goals, and is just three away from the top spot in the Golden Boot race. The Venezuelan international is averaging a goal a game brings pace, physicality and a knack for goal that’s instilled a fear in every player who’s had to face the 24-year-old. With head coach Tata Martino’s infamous high press, Martinez is also always the first defender, causing a headache for the opposition even when his team isn’t in possession – an absolute menace for any back line.
2) Wreck the Red Bull Duo
The Red Bulls are unbeaten in their last seven at Red Bull Arena in large part because of their success in the final third, scoring 2.7 goals a game over that stretch. A key component of that lethal attack is the duo of midfielder Sacha Klejstan and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips. Klejstan has proven he possesses the vision, the touch and the passing ability that makes him one of the most creative midfielders in the league, leading MLS in assists this season with 17. When the U.S. international is feeding players with a nose for goal like Bradley Wright-Phillips – the 2014 and 2016 MLS Golden Boot winner – it’s easy to see why the Red Bulls have secured yet another playoff berth for the eighth year in a row.
3) The Red-Hot Rookie
Selected eighth overall by Atlanta in the MLS SuperDraft in January, midfielder Julian Gressel has proven one of the league’s most valuable off-season acquisitions. With technical ability, physicality and awareness on both sides of the ball, the 23-year-old has been Tata Martino’s go-to utility player, stepping in and adapting to wherever he is needed on the field. Most recently, he’s been asked to fill the central attacking midfield position for the injured Miguel Almirón and he’s been nothing short of brilliant, recording at least a goal or an assist in four out of his last six matches. There’s a reason the German is at or near the top of everyone’s list for MLS Rookie of the Year.
How to follow
You can catch all the action from Red Bull Arena on Sunday night at 5:00 p.m. EST, with the match broadcast on FS1 or via Fox Sports GO. Click here for all details on how to follow the match.