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Atlanta United falls to Red Bulls, but closes out series to reach MLS Cup


HARRISON, N.J. — Atlanta United took care of business at home with its attack, but the club’s defense led the way on the road.

Atlanta United advanced to the MLS Cup Final on Thursday night, falling 1-0 at Red Bull Arena but defeating the New York Red Bulls, 3-1, on aggregate. The result in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Finals knocked the Red Bulls out of the playoffs and gave Atlanta United hosting rights for the championship match on Dec. 8.

The second-year club will play the victor of Thursday’s other semifinals bout between Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers.

Atlanta United, which had been edged by the Red Bulls for the Supporters’ Shield on the final day of the regular season, closed out the series with an organized and compact defensive performance. New York found a tap-in goal through Tim Parker in second-half stoppage time, but was unable to muster up enough quality against a tough Atlanta defense.

The Red Bulls thought they had started a late rally moments earlier when they found the back of the net in the 80th minute, but the use of VAR disallowed Aaron Long’s headed effort for nodding the┬áball out of Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s hands.

New York had a decent look go begging before halftime. After Guzan raced well off his line to try and punch the ball clear, Tyler Adams attempted a volley from just outside the penalty area. The chance on the empty net was smashed high and wide, however.

It was actually Atlanta that had the best chances on the night, with a clear cut one coming a mere 12 seconds in. A kickoff that turned into a long ball saw Josef Martinez collect the ball in space before racing towards goal, but his ensuing shot was too weak to trouble Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.

Atlanta United’s other near chance occurred in the 21s minute when Julian Gressel unleashed a low shot from outside the penalty area that was headed towards the bottom left corner. Robles came to the rescue, however, with a superb dive to push the ball away.

Man of the Match

While Atlanta United’s entire defense played well throughout, captain Michael Parkhurst led the way with some stellar play at the back. He held Bradley Wright-Phillips in check, forcing the Red Bulls’ star striker to drop out of the penalty area and into deeper positions to try and get a touch of the ball.

Moment of the Match

In need of a goal, the Red Bulls’ best chance in the opening stanza came via Adams’ volleyed attempt. It was not easy by any means, but New York sorely needed a goal there just before halftime to have any shot of turning the series around.

Match To Forget

For the second straight game, Red Bulls wide midfielders Daniel Royer and Alex Muyl provided little from the run of play. They failed to combine with Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra and also did not provide much service to a starved Wright-Phillips, leaving the Red Bulls with few chances to find the necessary goals.


  1. Im ok with the coach being out. He was tactically outplayed when it mattered most and stuck with Lade and Myul for two games even though both players clearly struggled. I would have benched Myul right after the offisde call. I just dont know what they see in myul no defense no offense always on the floor

  2. Armas let this team down when it mattered most. He stuck to a game plan that clearly did not work for 180 minutes. In europe he would be out cause this is as far as he can get us. He was tactically outplayed. As should lade who was owned and myul who cost red bulls two goals this series. I just dont get what they see in this kid especially after this series. Cost us the offside call and slid into the ball headed for BWP for clear goal .

  3. This tie was lost during the training for the first game when they decided to not do what won them the shield. How Chris Armas is getting a contract, after this tie, is beyond ridiculous. Fair play to ATL but this loss is all on Armas for thinking the biggest game of the year called for a complete team tactical abandonment. All the bad playoff losses for the RBNY/Metro, as a fan, this hurts the most because had they stuck to their guns in ATL, they wouldn’t have had to chase the game tonight.

    • While you are right that Armas messed the sheets badly in the first leg, I think you’re being a bit harsh in saying the guy should be dumped. He’s been a head coach for less than 5 months, during which he managed to guide the team to a Supporters Shield. In the end, he got done by a very good ATL team with a very experienced manager, who might very well have won the tie regardless. I realize that “learning on the job” is basically not tolerated in soccer anymore, but one has to ask… who is better that would replace him? If the last 15 months of US soccer has taught us anything, I’d like to think that firing somebody simply as “punishment for failure” is pretty unsophisticated, particularly if you have no idea what the replacement plan is Ah well… I guess Berhalter is theoretically still available.

      • I’m all for learning on the job but it’s not so much punishment for failure as it is one very big egregious decision, that perhaps cost his team the tie. He wasn’t our coached by Tata, Armas just simply over thought the first leg.

    • supporters’ shield. all time mls single season points record. and then one bad game.
      my two cents: they came out in leg 2 pressing high, the way they won the shield. so, obviously armas learned from his mistake. definitely you give him another season. no doubt about it.

      • i think the lesson was, don’t change your principles just because one key player (kemar lawrence) is injured. actually, on september 30, they were without TWO key players and still they pressed high. so on that day armas did it perfectly. and in leg 2 he did it perfectly. just the one bad game in leg 1. i think he learned from it.

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