Let’s be honest: Atlanta United completely collapsed on Decision Day in Toronto as they let the Supporters’ Shield slip right through their fingers. After a season of dominance, the Five Stripes finished the regular season empty handed.
The page has now turned and the regular season has made way for the the playoffs. No more table. No more points. Just win baby!
Atlanta now knows their opponents for the conference semi-finals: New York City FC. The team also knows that nothing short of the MLS Cup will satiate their fans who are hungry for something to punctuate the end of the Tata Martino, and likely Miguel Almiron, era.
The question is can they get to the finals? And if so, can they win it?
Key Questions For in Leg 1:
- Will Yankee Stadium be a factor?: NYCFC’s home pitch measures 70 yd x 110 yd. Mercedes-Benz Stadium on the other hand measures 75 yd x 115 yd. Yankee Stadium’s field is 11% smaller and that affects Atlanta’s typical wide, pressing style. While Tata has done a much better job of adapting the style of play week-to-week in year two with the club, the Decision Day debacle showed that he is not above committing to a game plan to the detriment of the team.
- Will Miggy and/or Tito Start?: I suspect Tito will as he went the full second half on Sunday. The team announced through their social channels on Tuesday that Almiron had returned to training. I think he will probably start on the bench, but I would not be surprised to see him come in at halftime if things are not going well.
- Can Josef get back to his scoring ways?: Martinez has not scored a goal in the run of play since the stoppage time game-winner in San Jose back on September 19. Since that time, the Golden Boot winner has seemed to be playing with a proverbial “scorer’s block.” If you have followed this team over the last few years, you know that when Josef gets frustrated about not scoring, it affects every aspect of his play.
Atlanta United: L | W | W | L | W
New York City FC: W | W | L | L | W
The series between these two is 1–2–1 all time. This season featured the two draws: a 2–2 draw in Atlanta on April 15th and a 1–1 draw in New York on June 9th.
There is a lot to be concerned about with this match: the pitch, Miggy’s health, and Josef’s lack of scoring. However, NYCFC played a knockout game mid-week. That being said, the lads from the Big Apple looked pretty strong in their take down of the Union.
I would consider it a win if Atlanta can secure a draw and score at least one away goal here. That would put the control firmly in their hands coming back to the Benz next week. Of course, we all know what happened last time they had that kind of control.
New York City FC — 1, Atlanta United — 1
New York City FC vs. Atlanta United FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, November 4, 2018, Yankee Stadium. Game available on FS1.