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NYCFC makes big statement on its way to strengthening hold on first place in East

New York City FC’s impressive record should have already been enough to convince skeptics that this year’s team was one to be taken seriously, but a statement victory like the one delivered on Wednesday was still well worth delivering.

NYCFC’s 4-1 drubbing of Atlanta United not only helped Domenec Torrent’s side strengthen its hold on first place in the Eastern Conference, it showed that NYCFC can do damage against the toughest of opponents.

Sure, Atlanta United was without injured star Josef Martinez, as well as Julian Gressel, but the reigning MLS Cup champions still had enough quality on the field to be expected to push NYCFC, but what we saw instead was a first-half beatdown on the way to a comfortable victory.

“If you want to beat Atlanta, you have to be brave and today they had an outstanding performance and I am happy for that,” Torrent said. “I don’t know what will happen in the playoffs, but right now I have a lot of confidence with this team.”

Atlanta United entered the match having faced the prospect of being without star striker Josef Martinez, but it wasn’t the team’s attack, but its defense that was a disaster in a first-half that saw NYCFC run wild.

“We weren’t good. We weren’t good the moment we stepped on the pitch,” Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “They were better than us in every aspect of the game in the first half. We talked about it being a playoff game tonight. We talked about it being a real game. We talked about knowing they were going to come out flying in the first minute. We weren’t good enough. The spacing was so big that they had so much time and space on the ball to play. We were chasing shadows. We didn’t tackle. We didn’t win balls in the air. We had two chances in the first half compared to their chances. They are a good team. We were nowhere near the same level as them.”

Wednesday’s win pushed NYCFC’s current unbeaten run to a league-best nine matches, with seven victories during that stretch to give NYC the best run of form in the league at the moment.

NYCFC can secure first place in the East with a draw in either if its final two matches, but don’t expect the East leaders from backing into the playoffs. They are on a roll, and want to continue to build momentum heading into the postseason.

“I think for us, we still have everything to play for in the next two games,” Sean Johnson said. “We have some guys coming back and getting match fit, some guys are continuing to find their form and continue to stay in a good way.

“So, we’ll approach the last two games in a professional manner and I think whoever steps out on the pitch in the last two games you’re going to see the same thing–you’re going to see a team that is hungry to win.”

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