The New York Red Bulls will be eager to get back on the field. The team finally won a match, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 at home. The emphatic victory saw goals from both Royer and Wright-Phillips, with Felipe adding a late stinger. It was a fantastic victory that the club will hope to build on heading into the match against Atlanta United.
Atlanta is having a stellar inaugural season in MLS. With 53 points and in third place in the East, Atlanta is proving that they have plenty of star power to compete with the elite MLS clubs. From Josef Martinez to Miguel Almiron, the team sheet is always daunting for the opposing team to look at.
The goalscoring leader on the team Josef Martinez is by no means the only dangerman the Red Bulls need to worry about. Atlanta has had 15 different players score at least one goal this season, further proving how dangerous they are in all positions. Martinez is just the tip of the iceberg in the deep and deadly ocean that is the Atlanta strike force.
Coach Gerardo Martino has the luxury of having multiple attacking players that can interchange and play anywhere in the front line. The 4231 that Atlanta lines up in allows the front four to play off each other and create matchup nightmares for the opposition. Yamil Asad, Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba all technically play as the three attacking midfielders, but also all feed off one another and set up Martinez frequently.
Atlanta is coming off a tough 3-2 loss to Minnesota United, but have probably forgotten about the result by now. Apart from it being right before the international break, Atlanta was also slightly limited in lineup selection due to both short rest and injury problems within the team. The team will be forced to start Brad Guzan in net due to a red card issued to Kyle Reynish last match, but other than that the team should be at full strength and hungry for a win.
The Red Bulls, on the other hand, will be cherishing their latest result, as it was their first victory since mid August. The team finally looked playoff ready and the offensive spark was finally lit again. Contributions from Daniel Royer offensively and Kemar Lawrence defensively made for a victory that calmed the supporters and coaching staff alike.
Things seemed back to normal against the Whitecaps, and New York will hope to hit the same three keys against Atlanta to ensure victory. Those keys being defensive solidity, high quality involvement from Kljestan and, the inevitable goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips to calm everyone down. All these points were hit in the victory against Vancouver, so Marsch will surely be asking for more of the same from his team.
The 3511 formation that the Red Bulls lined up in seemed to really compliment the team. Switching to a back five when defending, the shape of the team allowed for plenty of cover for Robles while still creating quality chances going forward. Using that same formation against Atlanta could be a smart idea, but would require the wingbacks of Tyler Adams and Connor Lade to track back often to keep New York from conceding.
A win for the Red Bulls would set up a very interesting final day in MLS. At 46 points, New York currently has the 6th spot locked up but could end up in fifth if they win their last two matches and a few results go in their favor. This would also open up the possibility of facing NYCFC in the second round of the playoffs, which would easily be one of the biggest New York Derby’s of all time.
For now, though, both teams need to focus on this game alone. Finding your best form just two weeks from the start of the playoffs could be the difference between a first round exit and a deep run at the MLS Cup. The Red Bulls will be raring to get back on the field, so the home fans should expect a high tempo right out of the gate as Marsch looks to get in front early.