You knew this was going to be a difficult 2nd leg as the New York Red Buls had to find a way to dig out of a giant three goal aggregate hole, put Atlanta United on their heels and convert any opportunities they can get.
Instead what they got was another dose of parking the bus in front of Brad Guzan and while the Red Bulls did convert on a Tim Parker goal, to earn the only score of the match, the Red Bulls fell to Tata Martino and his Atlanta United, losing the series three goals to one on aggregate.
“Their structure 5-3-2, again, it wasn’t a secret, when you play like that, yeah, it’s just in the width of whatever it is, 44 yards.” said Chris Armas “It’s just tough for us to really attack the spaces that we’re used to, the way we play, but we knew that, so coming in, we knew there would be space and we tried to open them up with different ways with width and we did at moments.
“Whether it’s in the wrong play or set pieces, yeah, there’s a few chances to make some plays tonight and we were close on a bunch. So you give them a lot of credit, over the course of the series, they limited our big chances and congrats to them. It’s a fine line in these games, in these plays, so mostly I’m just proud of the guys, the way we competed in the series and on the year.”
When Atlanta United kicked off, they tried to go for the throat early, as the midfield sprung Josef Martinez to an attacking run. All alone and onside Martinez tried to get the away goal, to end this series in the opening fourteen seconds.
But the Captain Luis Robles made sure that match wouldn’t allow that to happen, as he made a big save to keep the club alive, for the hope that the boys can convert chances to crack the aggregate.
It was a back line of Greg Garza, Leandro Gonzalez-Pires, Michael Parkhurst, Jeff Larentowicz and Franco Escobar that stifled the Red Bulls attack. Atlanta United allowed the Red Bulls to get close to their area, but they made sure the home side would never crack the 18yd box and become dangerous for a goal scoring opportunity.
It looked like the Red Bulls might have converted a chance in the 80th minute as Aaron Long found a way to head the ball into the back of the net, but VAR struck again as they informed Jair Marrufo, to wipe it out, due to Brad Guzan being fouled on that play.
Tim Parker was finally able to beat Brad Guzan inside second half stoppage time, but once again this was too little, too late. While the Red Bulls won the 2nd leg, they lost the series, and are going to have to ponder about the opportunity they missed in the 1st leg back in Atlanta.
So what was the message that Head Coach Chris Armas gave the team after this disappointing loss? “There wasn’t a whole lot of words to say. I’m not sure who would have that much to say but the message was how proud I was of the team, then all the years of playing, you lose most of the time.” said Armas “Just the way it is, right. Even the greatest of all time, you play for 20 years, maybe you win five, but that’s what it is sometimes, and most of the time.
“Shared my experience that it always made me ask hard questions about myself and how can I do better and what can I do more and it always made me hungry to come back next year, that was the message.”
But the frustrations continue and now they have to wait a full week, to see if Atlanta United can defeat the Portland Timbers, for that last spot in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League as the draw will be conducted, this coming Monday night.