Atlanta United bested New York City FC 1-0 Sunday night at Yankee Stadium. Atlanta United midfielder Eric Remedi would tally the match’s only goal for the night to give Atlanta a one-nil advantage and a crucial away-goal heading into Leg 2 next Sunday. Josef Martinez had volleyed the ball from a set piece, a cracker that looked like a sure goal, but NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson parried the ball to his left. The ball fell right to a poaching Remedi who toe-tapped it in the lower right corner for Atlanta’s lone goal and the game winner.
Miguel Almirón, who was still not 100% recovered from his hamstring injury, got the start and played high, supporting role to Josef Martinez. He actually scored the team’s first goal but VAR overturned it with a very shrewd offside call. Atlanta manager Tata Martino’s gamble (starting Almirón) paid off and got the best out of him in his plan to use him cautiously (he was substituted by halftime since he’s not 100%).
The match was chippy from the blow of the first whistle. There were four yellow cards in the first half alone and by the 44′ the match was one foul short of the most fouls in the first half of a match this season.
In the 54′, Josef Martinez received a long ball from a panic clearance. He made a good decision to hold the ball until Tito Villalba came streaking through the middle. Now on a 2 v 1, Martinez waited a bit too long and his pass to Villalba was errant. Villalba held the ball too long (because of the botched pass) and his shot was eventually blocked, wasting a precious opportunity for a second away goal.
Darlington Nagbe was the difference maker in the match and by far the most fouled player Sunday Night for Atlanta United. Although the pre-game starting XI had him in left-midfield, he took his usual role in central defense.
Greg Garza’s presence brought a threat on the left wing that the five stripes have missed since his injury in April. Garza held down the left flank the for the night while Julian Gressel was responsible for the right with Franco Escobar pushing high in support.
In the 90′, Martinez broke in the final third but was tripped up when it was time to fire away. He controlled the ball and laid it off to Garza who one-timed it toward the top corner, but Johnson reacted quickly and made the save of his life to keep NYCFC’s hopes alive.
Atlanta’s destiny is in their control as they play the second leg in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The match is set for Sunday, Nov. 11. With an away goal advantage, a mere draw would see them through to the MLS Eastern Conference final to play the winner of the Columbus Crew/New York Red Bulls clash.
Photo: Courtesy of ATL UTD