Atlanta United dominated the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals, but with a date in Red Bulls Arena approaching, the end result remains to be seen.
After what may be considered the best-ever result in Atlanta United’s shortlived history, the Five Stripes travel to Red Bull Arena with a 3-0 aggregate lead over the Supporters’ Shield winners.
Every Atlanta fan, however, will tell you that there is no room for comfort when the city holds a big lead. We all know the result of Super Bowl LI.
However, no team in Major League Soccer has ever come back from a 3-0 aggregate deficit. But then no team has also earned 71 points in a regular season until this very New York Red Bulls did.
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
The aggregate lead seems to be more than enough on paper for the Five Stripes to book their ticket for MLS Cup in Mercedes Benz Stadium, but with a team as skilled as New York, fans would be foolish to count out the Red Bulls in front of their home crowd.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Atlanta’s dominant performance was the absence of Red Bull defender Kemar Lawrence, who missed out due to an injury he picked up in training. The Five Stripes took full advantage of the missing key defender with Franco Escobar consistently winning 50/50 battles and finding himself in the final third which led to one assist and a goal for the Argentine defender. Question marks still surround Lawrence as to whether or not he will be fit for the second leg, but his presence on the field would give the Red Bulls an extra spurt of life if they have any hope of overcoming the deficit.
Even with the Jamaican defender returning to the starting XI, it still seems like a large hill to climb against an Atlanta team that seems to be peaking at the right time. As difficult as it may be, it is nowhere near impossible.
Just over a month ago the Five Stripes arrived in Red Bull Arena for what seemed to be the biggest match of the year with a chance for separation at the top of the table. The whistle blew and the Red Bulls dominated the match from the very first kick, earning a 2-0 win to help win the 2018 Supporters’ Shield.
Even though a 2-0 victory would not be enough for the Red Bulls to host the MLS Cup, the home side showed that they are more than capable of slipping three shots past the Atlanta defense, most notably when Kaku stepped up to the penalty spot in the 87th minute but was denied by goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Although during the moment the save seemed futile, it proved that the Red Bulls are down, but not yet out.
The city of Atlanta has rallied behind their Five Stripes for two seasons like no other. And after 23 years of not winning a championship, the fans are more than eager to see the Cup lifted. But even with a 3-0 lead, the Red Bulls still find themselves in the race.