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The Red Bulls are set to battle inform Atlanta United in Harrison

A rocky start by the reigning MLS Cup champions is behind them as Atlanta comes to town

MLS: New York Red Bulls at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The fierce rivalry between Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls will be renewed for the first time this season. Both teams crashed out of the CONCACAF Champions League and consequently had slow starts to the season.

Atlanta has done a complete 180 on their form after their rocky start. They have lost just once since April 13th and have won their last five in a row. Usual dangerman Josef Martinez is still bagging goals left and right, leading the team with five so far.

A handful of other attacking players have also lifted Atlanta to their current form.Hector Villalba leads the team with three assists while Ezequiel Barco has four goals and an assist to his name. New signing “Pity” Martinez has also made quite the impact, notching his first goal against Orlando on May 12th and creating a plethora of chances in previous matches.

While the offense is starting to click into gear, Atlanta’s defense has been on another level. They boast the best defensive record in the east, allowing just eight goals on the season.

The aforementioned five match win streak is also a five match clean sheet streak for Brad Guzan and the Atlanta defense. Leandro Gonzalez is one of the difference makers in the backline for Atlanta, with the Argentine making 17 tackles and 21 interceptions on the season.

Guzan is in second place for most clean sheets on the season with six while Atlanta is tied with LAFC for best defense in MLS. Strength on both sides of the ball make this an even tougher matchup for the Red Bulls, but things have been looking up for Chris Armas’ men.

The Red Bulls are coming off an unlikely 3-1 away win against FC Dallas on May 11th. Toyota Stadium is usually such a formidable place to play for opposing teams, but some exciting young talent had other ideas.

The three goal scorers for the Red Bulls had an average age of just 21 as both Cristhian Casseres Jr. and Brian White grabbed their second goals of the year. Sean Nealis grabbed his first for the Red Bulls off a wicked deflection as well, with Omir Fernandez, Michael Murillo and Andreas Ivan grabbing assists on the goals.

An unfortunate early injury to Vincent Bezecourt forced Sean Davis to sub in just 18 minutes into the match. For a team already plagued with a few key injuries, this was troubling to see so early on the day. The Red Bulls were able to rally around their youth, though, and produce an overall dominating display.

Aaron Long missed the match against Dallas with BWP also out injured. The team got a much needed week off after their impressive win, which could give them an advantage against Atlanta.

A midweek win against the Whitecaps saw Atlanta field a few bench players, including ex-Crew player Justin Meram and Florentin Pogba, brother of the Premier League midfielder Paul Pogba. They know how important this match is, so expect manager Frank de Boer to bring his full strength lineup to Harrison.

Funnily enough, the Red Bulls play the Whitecaps just three days after the Atlanta match. Armas will be laser focused on the match with Atlanta, though, so supporters do not need to worry about any possible rotation taking place.

This match always produces some truly fantastic football. Atlanta made a statement when it counted in this matchup, beating the Red Bulls 3-0 in the first leg of the playoffs last season. Other than that, the Red Bulls have beaten Atlanta four of the six times they have played, drawing once back in 2017.

With the Red Bulls all the way down in 9th in the east, this is a statement match for the team. A convincing win and a big three points would push the team into 6th as well as give them a much needed boost as they head into the thick of the season.

The match kicks off at 5pm EST, which is perfect for a Sunday fixture. Red Bull Arena should be rocking with plenty of home and away support, so supporters and neutrals alike should expect a great atmosphere with quickfire, smashmouth football.