MLSsoccer.com asked the question: Who has the better forwards: Atlanta United or the New York Red Bulls? It is a somewhat stupid question to ask. This match-up is about so much more than just the forwards.
It might be one of the most hotly anticipated playoff matches in MLS history: the two best teams of the season that fought until the final minute for the Supporters’ Shield now come together in a two-legged contest. There are few better matches than that.
Naturally, when previewing such a monumental match, there is a whole lot of furore and debate. What are the key match-ups? How might the game play out? Will there be any tactical surprises from either head coach? And in keeping with their need for commercial attention, mlssoccer.com has indeed partaken in this plastic charade — I love mlssoccer.com and the work they do. This is not meant to demean them, merely the overhyped practice of sports media in general.
More from MLS Multiplex
- Javier Milei Elected in Argentina: Potential Impacts on MLS and Signings of Argentine Players
- Orlando City and New York City FC in the Battle for Matías Arezo; Grêmio Enters Negotiations! Who Will Come Out on Top?
- USA, Honduras, Panama, and Canada Close in on a Spot in the 2024 Copa America
- De Gea Turns Down Al-Nassr’s Lucrative Offer: Speculation Points to Possible Reunion with Messi at Inter Miami
- Messi’s Magnetic Impact in the United States
On Monday, as a part of the build-up, mlsssoccer.com asked the following question: Who has the better forwards: Atlanta United or the New York Red Bulls? Specifically, they were asking which team has the better attacking duo: Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez of Atlanta or Daniel Royer and Bradley Wright-Phillips of New York? You can read the piece here.
The question is not very difficult to answer. Of course Almiron and Martinez comprise the better duo. Martinez is the top goalscorer in MLS, breaking the single-season record, and Almiron is likely the most talented player of the league over the past two seasons, gearing towards a move to a top European club in the offseason. Neither Royer or Wright-Phillips can lay claim to a similar resume.
But football — and this match-up specifically — is about far more than who has the best pair of attackers. As Bobby Warshaw states in the piece, you could put Almiron and Martinez up against any duo from any team in MLS. They are the best pair in the league, and it is not especially close.
But as Atlanta and New York prove, this wonderful sport is far more than just picking fantasy players on a piece of paper. The Five Stripes have vulnerabilities in midfield and their mentality. They are yet to show that they can perform when it matters most. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls rely on a stifling defence, the best in MLS, and the control that they can exert from an excellent central midfield.
Simply asking who has the better pair of striker belies the complexities of this game, misses the nuances and the complications, fails to recognise the changes that come from mere debate and actually playing on a pitch between the white lines.
And for this match in particular, it misses some of the best players on the pitch: Tyler Adams, Tim Parker, Darlington Nagbe, Aaron Long, Julian Gressel. New York certainly are not built on the prowess on their attacking duo, Royer and Wright-Phillips, not to demean the quality of those players. They are a far more complete team than just two attackers.
This question, therefore, misses the complete essence of the sport. It is not about the individuals, however great those individuals may be. It is about the collective, and that is where the Red Bulls come into their own.