Atlanta United, lead by MLS Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez, took down New York City FC Sunday Night to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
In their first playoff match win at home the 5 Stripes took on a physical NYCFC club that looked to influence the match before it began.
That physicality was seen early when NY’s Maxime Chanot took out Miguel Almíron’s legs in the fourth minute. Chanot was shown a yellow card, but many— including Atlanta faithful screaming in the stands— thought the punishment should’ve been more extreme.
With note-ably hated referee Mark Geiger working the match, there was little predictability to how the match would be called. However, just twenty minutes later Geiger called a clear foul on Ismael Tojouri-Shradi in the 18-yard box that sent Josef Martinez up for a penalty kick. Martinez with his crazy stutter-step sunk the goal for an early 1-0 Atlanta lead.
In the 42nd minute Almíron took a free kick from 30-yards out and, in Kevin Kratz fashion, sunk the shot top-left corner.
Miguel Almirón with the absolute screamer of a free kick! https://t.co/ltfJAYLdR9
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) November 11, 2018
New York’s Chanot did squeak out a goal in the 45th minute to take a 2-1 score to halftime. With a 3-1 aggregate score and 45 minutes left to play many Atlanta natives knew the feeling of comfort and fear of disappointment too well. Instead, Tata Martino’s club ultimately silenced those fears— for the moment.
Atlanta opened the second half slightly sluggish while dealing with a NY squad looking to score at all costs. Cheap shots were taken a handful of times by the team up north and three yellow cards shown, but no serious injures.
This comes as a relief an Atlanta team already playing without veteran Jeff Larentowicz, who was ruled out with a leg muscle injury. Miles Robinson played in Larentowicz position and later was named as the best player on the pitch by multiple players and Martino.
Brad Guzan on Miles Robinson’s play against NYCFC. pic.twitter.com/UvRwRzneMB
— Action Sports & News (@ActionSports411) November 12, 2018
In the 83rd minute Martinez added a game ender and his thirty-second goal of the season. The 3-1 score left the aggregate at 4-1 and out of reach for New York.
Atlanta United will now have to take on New York Red Bulls in a two-leg Eastern Conference Finals. Since New York is the top seed, the first leg will be in Atlanta on November 18th. The second leg will go back to New York a week later on November 25th.