Atlanta United have dominated nearly every team in Major League Soccer, but the Five Stripes have yet to solve the puzzle of the New York Red Bulls.
On March 5, 2017, Atlanta United finally kicked off for its much-anticipated inaugural Major League Soccer season. 55,000 fans gathered at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. There was a fervour and an excitement engulfing the city.
But the raft of baying fans only transpired to watch the historic moment end in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the New York Red Bulls.
The initial defeat started what would become a seemingly unsolvable puzzle for Tata Martino and the Five Stripes. Atlanta United is yet to defeat the Red Bulls in four meetings, losing three and earning a 0-0 draw for the only point taken away from the matchup, the latest of which was a 2-0 defeat in New York on Sunday afternoon.
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Atlanta United has virtually dominated close to every other team in MLS, so the question must be asked: What’s up with the New York Red Bulls?
In order to fully answer this question, fans must look at one of the most obvious answers: experience. Because the Five Stripes have taken the league by storm it is easy to forget that this is only the club’s, and many of the players, second year in the league. Players like Michael Parkhurst, Jeff Larentowicz, Darlington Nagbe, and Brad Guzan have all experienced MLS prior to Atlanta United but are all still relatively new to playing together.
The attack of the Five Stripes has proven to be one of the deadliest in league history, with Josef Martinez, Miguel Almirón, Héctor Villalba, and Julian Gressel consistently tearing apart defenses and finding the back of the net. Their dominance on the field makes it easy to forget that these players have only been together for almost two seasons, whereas many of the Red Bulls have gone through the academy together courtesy of New York’s USL affiliate, NYRB II.
New York’s consistent dominance of Atlanta United and MLS as a whole reminds fans that spending millions of dollars on young and exciting talent is not the only way to win trophies.
Using the financial resources of Atlanta owner Arthur Blank has proven to be beneficial in Atlanta’s young history, but the homegrown aspect of the Red Bulls gives fans a different method of building a dominant product on the field.
The New York Red Bulls Academy is one of the best in the league and it has shown in the four matchups against the Five Stripes with academy products like Brian White, Sean Davis, and Alex Muyl all spending time in USL with NYRB II and being key parts for the club at the MLS level.
The New York Red Bulls have given Atlanta United more than enough troubles in only four matchups. And they are not doing it with big names or even large checks. But, instead, they are doing it with what lies right in their own backyard. Perhaps Atlanta could learn a lesson or two.