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lethalweapon3

Same Ole Atlanta United 2018

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Welp! At least somebody got some hardware out of this season!

Congrats to Josef!

After last night's Knockout Round, it's time to tame the Pigeons! Let's make Yankee Stadium, "The House That Miggy Built"!

~lw3

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Time to take a couple bites out of The Big Apple!

We are fortunate enough to say, the MLS Playoffs are once again upon us! This evening, Atlanta United finds themselves where they’re supposed to be, playing on the road in the conference semifinals, with a closing argument to follow next week at The Benz. They get to kick things off versus NYCFC (7:30 PM Eastern, FS1, 92.9 FM in ATL) in the soccer pillbox known as Yankee Stadium. While the confines are tight, hopes are that Atlanta won’t be playing that way.

As grand a start as they have had in their franchise history, The Five Stripes would have a Supporters’ Shield on their shelf right now if they pulled out a couple more wins versus the top playoff-caliber competition. Against the other teams among MLS’ Top 7 finishers, Atlanta’s 2018 record was 1-3-4 (W-L-T). The sole win versus upstart LAFC was back on April 7, a 5-0 shutout, and in the other seven games, United found itself outscored 14-7.

Atlanta hasn’t come out on top in any of their visits to the NYC metro area, although the top-seeded Red Bulls (2-0-2, 7-2 goal differential vs. ATL) has had more fortune playing Atlanta head-to-head than these Pigeons (0-1-3, 7-7 goals).

NYC has had their share of distractions, but they were able to right their ship shortly after Patrick Vieira left overseas to coach in Ligue A in June. His MLS finale as a coach was here against Atlanta. Miguel Almiron suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, but Josef Martinez scored and Brad Guzan held up just enough to help the visitors escape with a 1-1 draw.

Reports are that Almiron (hamstring) will miss the first half of this opening leg as well. Atlanta will not want to wait for Miggy’s return to get things going on offense.

Under the watch of new coach Domenec Torrent, NYC picked up strongly enough to ensure the playoffs would not be in doubt, but they stumbled late in the regular season. Torrent’s club hopes the 3-1 win over Philadelphia in Wednesday’s knockout round will demonstrate their ship has righted just in time. While Atlanta has enjoyed the time off to lick their wounds after the deflating loss in Toronto, NYC midfielder Alexander Ring hopes that rust, rather than rest, while be the factor for his opponents.

“We have good momentum. Atlanta hasn’t played for a week now,” Ring told amNewYork ahead of this match, “and I remember last year, when we didn’t play the week, it was hard to get into the game against Columbus (the team that knocked out Atlanta in 2017’s playoffs) when they played before us.”

Torrent’s team is finding its form with the return of defensive midfielder Yangel Herrera and the full health of star striker David Villa. Whichever team can get a first goal, past either Atlanta’s Brad Guzan or NYC’s ATL-native keeper Sean Johnson, will try to rely on their midfielders to sustain possession.

If they can get an advantage or two or more goals, you can bet NYC will turn to Alexander Callens and their defenders to park the bus and keep any attacking angles for United’s scoring threats as congested as possible until the scene turns to Atlanta.

From the outset, Tata Martino will need to use his wingers to find their Golden Boot winner, Martinez, in the offensive box and keep the defenders for NYC (3rd-most fouls committed in MLS) busy and excessively occupied. In the compressed field, the likelihood of picking up penalty-kick chances, as was the case for Josef’s sole score last weekend, will be high.

"We Gon' Shine," but there is no need to wait a week to do so. Coming away at least even today would take a lot of pressure off Atlanta United for the return leg home. Coming home from New York with a goal(s) advantage, and an increasingly recuperated roster, could work out even better, and would be a positive development if they have to face the Red Bulls in the next round. If Atlanta United can make it there, they can make it anywhere. It's up to them.

 

Let’s Go United!

~lw3

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Where's Kurt Russell when you need him? ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

Gritty defensive performance! Would've loved Miggy's disallowed goal to end Leg 1 at 2-0, but we'll take it. Back to The Benz to close it out!

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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Football, futbol, basketball! It’s a busy Atlanta Sports Sunday, no contest more significant than Atlanta United’s, as they aim to put away New York City FC (5:30 PM Eastern, ESPN, 92.9 FM and La Mejor 1600 AM in ATL) in their MLS Playoff second-leg and punch their own ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. United can join the Dream, the Swarm, the Falcons, and the Hawks by becoming the fifth Atlanta team to reach a pro-league semifinal round over the past five years.

After collecting their first clean sheet since September, becoming the only successful road club during MLS’ conference semi first-legs, The Five Stripes will return to their raucous home crowd at Mercedes Benz Stadium. More significantly, they’ll enjoy a more wide-open field, giving midfielders and strikers more room to roam. Game 1 scoring hero Eric Remedi and the formerly injured midfielder he was brought in to replace, Darlington Nagbe, will be able to help Atlanta control possessions more effectively on this pitch.

Coach Tata Martino will also be able to deploy a healthier Miguel Almiron (team-high 14 assists, tied with Julian Gressel) for a longer stretch in this contest. Ideally, if Almiron (hamstring, goal wiped out by VAR in Leg 1) is still under injury management, he can be on the field for as long as necessary to build more than a two-goal lead.

Having 2017 All-Star defender Greg Garza back in the Starting XI will also be helpful for Atlanta keeping David Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Maxi Moralez and Yangel Herrera (goal disallowed by refs in Leg 1, due to a questionable call on Villa) at bay. Veteran center-back Jeff Larentowicz (undisclosed muscle injury) is listed as questionable, but if Big Red’s at least 50 percent, he’ll give it a go.

Coach Tata will likely need a formation shift, with Ezequiel Barco starting from the jump and Gressel playing further back, if Larentowicz is held out. If NYC desperately crowds the box hunting for scores, ATLUTD must make stops and find Gressel and the midfielders to build up decisive advantages in the other direction.

Outscore NYC in this match, and Atlanta moves on. Settle for a draw in this match, and Atlanta still moves on to face the winner of the Red Bulls and Columbus. It’s easier to fish when the fish is out of the water. But there’s no reason to expect NYC (4-9-4 in 2018 away games; 2-9-2 since a 2-2 draw @ ATL back on April 15; no more than one goal in last five road games), who has its share of offseason challenges to face, to simply hand this outcome to Atlanta. For the home club, it’s time to seize the day!

 

Let’s Go United!

~lw3

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I thought soccer playoffs were best of 1's. I completely missed the first one but I have the DVR set for today. 

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Way to go!

Not sure who I'd rather Atlanta face next round, but Columbus (up 1 thru the 1st leg) and the Red Bulls face off right now! (on FS1)

~lw3

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    • By lethalweapon3
      Might as well get a thread going!
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