If the build up to last week’s derby match against NYCFC did not get your blood pumping, then this match certainly will. The New York Red Bulls will travel down south to take on a frightening Atlanta United team. Both teams are free scoring and love quick counter attacks, so this one is already set up to be a thriller.
Atlanta’s form has seen them put multiple goals past the best teams in the league, slipping up only twice against Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo. A victory against Orlando City showed how resilient their defense can be, while matches against Montreal (4-1) and LAFC (5-0) show how unstoppable their attack is. This team has been nothing but trouble for their opponents since stepping into MLS, and this year is certainly no different.
The superhero-like duo of Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron is yet again blasting off in 2018. Often relying on quick movements and long through balls, the two have a combined 14 goals and six assists on the season already. Both players will be causing the Red Bulls backline problems for 90 minutes, and the team needs to be ready for a challenge.
Sean Davis knows how dangerous this Atlanta attack can be, with the midfielder voicing his concern Tuesday to the media following practice.
“...We have a lot of respect for them, but we are going to give everything we have”.
Davis will personally find himself very busy during this match, as he will need to cover the insane amount of space that Atlanta opens up. Player movement is a big key to the team’s success, with Almiron and Martinez in particular constantly swapping around.
The Red Bulls defense will need to be even more stellar than they have been recently as they will have a different keeper to protect. Ironman Luis Robles will sadly not be playing in this match due to a knee injury, ending his remarkable 183 match starting streak. The starting spot will now be taken over by Ryan Meara, the usual starting keeper during cup matches.
This is a much bigger deal compared to other teams changing keepers. In a match of this magnitude, Luis Robles would thrive and exude his captain-like qualities throughout the match. Having Meara step in during such a big match is a bit worrisome, but his past cup experiences do somewhat ease the mind.
Atlanta often relies on outscoring their opponents rather than suffocating them defensively, demanding possession of the ball. With the Red Bulls tendency to sit back and often have well below 40% possession, this game could be a bit hard to watch for New York supporters.
Lucky for the Red Bulls, Bradley Wright-Phillips only needs a split second to change a game. His assist against the Colorado Rapids last week showed just that, as BWP whipped in a perfect cross for Royer to tap in just seconds after receiving the ball from a throw in. This kind of quick decision making will be the difference in Atlanta as New York will need to make their play count with the ball.
Derrick Etienne would make a great early substitute option for Marsch should the team find they are lacking options on the counter. Atlanta’s constant offensive pressure could affect players like Kaku and Florian Valot, so bringing Etienne on early to run in behind the defense could be key.
A switch to a three central defender formation could be on the cards, but it will be even more surprising if Marsch changes anything besides his keeper this match. The three game win streak the club is on is bringing out the best in all ten outfield players. From passing and movement to chances and goal, the team is just incredible to watch in full flight.
This will be tougher than the NYCFC match only because there is not the added hype of the derby going into it. The team will need to dig deep to bring out their best side, because nothing less than perfection will beat this Atlanta team at home. Three points will be a big ask for the Red Bulls, and quite honestly, a draw would be a great result to take back to Harrison.