Atlanta United hold a one-goal lead after the first leg, but there’s plenty of work still to do for the Five Stripes if they want to advance past NYCFC to the next round of the postseason. It’s been an even matchup at every turn in their short history between these two teams, and only one can get a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. It all adds up to another thrilling physical battle with two talented teams fighting to extend their season. Only this time, a full house of #17s will be in attendance.
Ahead of the match, we broke down the Tools to the Match, presented by The Home Depot.
Tata’s Words of Wisdom
After Sunday’s win, Tata Martino told reporters that, “In a playoff game… the team who has the most success is the team that commits the fewest errors.” With a goal advantage coming into the match, Martino will be emphasizing to his team the importance of staying calm under pressure to avoid costly mistakes. The Five Stripes like to build out of the back to spring the attack –– and they’ll still do that –– but it’s an awareness about when to take the safer passing option to relieve pressure. In the slim margins of postseason play, that discipline can be the difference in the match. They managed the perfect balance just a week ago, but they’ll need every bit of that effort again to get the vital result this time around.
There’s no secret who pulls the strings in the NYCFC midfield. Argentine playmaker Maxi Moralez is one of the most creative players in the league in the tight spaces between the midfield and center backs and is a vital passing foil to Spanish legend David Villa. As always, limiting Moralez’s service and time on the ball will be key, while also avoiding one-on-one situations with him on the dribble. Eric Remedi, Julian Gressel and Darlington Nagbe made it a team effort last week, constantly keeping a body on Moralez no matter where he drifted off to on the field. Having that same strong core that stood up to the challenge of a postseason midfield battle will play a major role in ensuring Atlanta United’s season will live on another round.
Use the Space
Yankee Stadium presents a tactical challenge dealing in the smaller space, but Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s field is unique as well. As one of the widest fields in the league, Atlanta United has their own home-field advantage. They will have to make use of that, spreading out the NYCFC midfield and finding space behind the defenders to create a chance on goal. Miguel Almirón and Tito Villalba both have another week of training and recovery under their belt, so their speed will be quite dangerous for the visiting NYCFC. They can use that by opening up the field and trying to hit NYCFC on a counter to sure up their spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Follow the Match:
Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, with the match set to be broadcast on ESPN. Click here for a full rundown of how to, watch, listen, or follow along with the game.