After a stellar month that saw Atlanta United (8-2-1) shoot to the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings, the red, black and gold are looking to finish the stretch strong as they host the New York Red Bulls (6-3-0) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium before heading off to a ten-day break. After a stop-start early season punctuated by a run in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Red Bulls are surging up the table themselves with four wins in their past five matches. It should be another stern test for the Five Stripes against another fiery Eastern Conference foe.
The match kicks off at 7:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FS1 and FOX Sports GO. Click here for all the details on how to follow along with the match.
Atlanta United (8-2-1)
After their first loss in more than two months, Atlanta United bounced back in a big way last weekend with a road win over an Orlando City team that had won six straight games. Josef Martinez’s first-half penalty brought him to eight on the season, with no one in Major League Soccer scoring more than him so far this season. Meanwhile, Ezequiel Barco got his second goal in three games as he blossoms into one of the most potent attacking threats in the league. And Miguel Almirón and Darlington Nagbe continue to gel into one of the most skilled midfield partnerships in MLS, pulling the strings behind Atlanta’s electric attacking front line. Head coach Tata Martino has plenty of attacking options at his disposal, with Tito Villalba ready to provide searing pace to the wing or Julian Gressel, who has been stellar in the right wingback position so far this year. That tactical flexibility only makes Atlanta United more dangerous as they keep their opponents guessing every week.
But one of the main reasons Atlanta United has already tallied as many road wins as they had all of last season is a defensive unit that continues to hang with the very best in the league. Atlanta United’s 13 goals conceded is sixth in the league, and the underlying numbers are even better: their 37 shots on goal conceded and 231 clearances are both tied for third best in the league. Captain Michael Parkhurst is seemingly aging backwards in the last line of defense, with his 59 clearances (3rd in MLS) combining with an intelligent leadership that has made him one of the league’s best since he joined Atlanta United last year. While there’s no word yet on the injury status of Chris McCann or Franco Escobar, Miles Robinson proved in Orlando that he is more than capable of deputizing alongside Leandro González Pirez in the back. Things only get better this weekend, as Brad Guzan returns from his one-game suspension from the red card he received last week against Sporting Kansas City.
New York Red Bulls (6-3-0)
Whether they’re called the Metrostars or the Red Bulls, New York has been one of the powerhouses of Major League Soccer ever since the league’s inception. They’re looking as strong as ever this year, with manager Jesse Marsch building another strong squad capable of competing at the top of the Eastern Conference. Bradley Wright-Phillips is once again a contender for MLS MVP, shrugging off the offseason departure of creator-in-chief Sacha Kljestan by piling on six goals and five assists so far this year –– both in the top five in the league. Joining him in the attack is the early frontrunner for MLS Newcomer of the Year, Alejandro Romero Gamarra –– or Kaku –– who has the outright lead in assists with seven.
But a Jesse Marsch team is always more than a two-man show, and his well-oiled machine has grown into one of the most effective and suffocating defensive presses in the league. Their defense ranks third in the league with 11 goals conceded, led by teenage U.S. international Tyler Adams’s energetic play in the center of midfield. Aaron Long and Tim Parker have combined to create a powerful and disciplined center back partnership, while team captain Luis Robles provides veteran leadership and elite shot-stopping ability in goal. All that adds up to a team that’s been a tough nut for Atlanta United to crack; the Five Stripes have scored only once in two matches against the Red Bulls in team history. But the red, black and gold will be eager to avenge the loss in Atlanta in the team’s inaugural match last year and display the true power of home-field advantage at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It’s a can’t-miss match between two of the most talented young squads in the Eastern Conference. Make sure you tune in on FS1 for the 7:00 p.m. EST kickoff, and for all the other ways to follow the match, click here.