Coming off a strong performance in Orlando, Atlanta United (8-2-1) return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to host the New York Red Bulls (6-3-0). This will mark only the second time the teams have met in Atlanta, the other being ATL UTD’s inaugural match that New York spoiled last year. While both sides have had a strong start to the 2018 season, it’s Atlanta that leads the pack, sitting at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings. Make sure to tune in Sunday night on FS1 at 7:00 p.m. EST to catch every minute.
Ahead of this weekend’s game, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot:
1) Beware of BWP
It’s impossible to face New York without immediately calling out a player that’s become synonymous with the Red Bulls squad: Bradley Wright-Phillips. The English forward is the club’s all-time leading goal scorer and one of the most prolific strikers the league has ever seen, winning the MLS Golden Boot in 2014 and 2016 and currently on pace to pass the century mark this season. The man they call “BWP” possesses the full package up front with raw speed, technical skill, as well as keen off the ball movement that is as good as anyone’s in the league. Atlanta will need to keep an eye on Wright-Phillips at all times if they are to stop a Red Bulls side whose 23 goals this season is just two behind the league-leading Five Stripes.
2) Guard Gamarra
With the departure of Sacha Klejstan over the offseason, the Red Bulls were on the hunt to fill their playmaking void in 2018. It’s safe to say they found their man in Alejandro Romero Gamarra. Quick, crafty and clever, the Argentine midfielder – also known as “Kaku” – brings exceptional quality to the center of the park. New York’s newest piece of the puzzle leads the league in assists with seven on the year and has also tacked on three goals of his own. Whether it’s building from the back, sparking a counter attack or weaving their way in tight spaces, it all goes through their #10. If Atlanta can cut the supply to Gamarra, it will go a long way in disrupting the Red Bulls’ potent attack.
3) Find the Width
Atlanta have been nearly unstoppable at home in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with the largest fanbase in the league roaring them on. But on top of the home crowd, the advantage of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s wide pitch allows Tata Martino and his side to execute their possession-oriented strategy. Their 3-5-2 lineup has been extremely effective this season especially when they’re able to get it wide to the feet of Greg Garza and Julian Gressel on the flanks. Quick in transition and tight in possession, the Five Stripes have been able to spray it out to the wings quickly, stretch the opponent, and then find the crashing Josef Martinez on a service into the box or a cut back to Miguel Almirón and Ezequiel Barco for an open look at the top of the area. Utilizing the width just as they did in their massive win in Orlando last weekend could see them have another high-scoring affair at home this Sunday.
Follow the Match:
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. EST, with the match set to be broadcast on FS1 and streamed on Fox Sports GO. You can listen to the game on the Atlanta United app or through one of our radio partners: 92.9 The Game or, for Spanish-speaking listeners, La Mejor Atlanta. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.