Atlanta United will host New York Red Bulls for the first leg of the Eastern Conference final. See which five players to watch.
Atlanta United host New York Red Bulls at Mercedes Benz Stadium as the Eastern conference final gets underway this Sunday. New York are a thorn in Atlanta’s side, as Red Bulls are one of a handful of team that Atlanta has yet to beat in two seasons.
New York are 3-0-1 in the series, including two wins in Atlanta. The last win in Atlanta came in May, a 3-1 drubbing in strange circumstances. Red Bulls most recently defeated the Five Stripes at Red Bull Arena in a 2-0 shutout.
Atlanta will need to win at home in a friendly environment if they want any chance of winning the series. Atlanta must also keep New York off the scoresheet since away goals are the first tiebreaker. Unfortunately, Red Bulls have had no issues scoring away from home against Atlanta. In two games in Atlanta, Red Bulls have outscored the Five Stripes 5-2. Needless to say, this Sunday’s match is very important.
Here are five players to watch ahead of the first leg of the Eastern Conference final.
5. Miguel Almiron
Atlanta is a team full of talent, but one player rises above the rest: Miguel Almiron. After picking up a hamstring injury towards the end of the regular season, Almiron missed a couple of matches. He returned to the starting line up in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal against NYCFC and played the entire first half. For the return leg against NYCFC, he played 84 minutes and scored a goal on a free kick.
Almiron will be important to watch against Red Bulls. It is no secret New York has Atlanta’s number. New York’s high press is stifling and has worked every single time against the Five Stripes. So how does Almiron factor into things?
Almiron’s influence this Sunday is key. So far in the playoffs, he has played up top with Josef Martinez in a sort-of-forward role as opposed to his usual central midfield role. Will Tata Martino keep Almiron in a similar position against New York? I don’t think so. I think Almiron’s ability to run all over the field is going to play a key part in breaking through New York’s press. Because of that, I think Almiron will be played in the middle of the park this time instead of up top.
Almiron makes this Atlanta team completely different when he is on the pitch. Therefore, all eyes must be on Miggy no matter where he lines up on Sunday.