|photo by Matt Kremkau
Early goals by Lewis Morgan and John Tolkin powered the New York Red Bulls over Atlanta United, continuing their regular-season dominance over their Eastern Conference rivals, 2-1.
Saturday's loss against Orlando City has put this team in a desperate situation. Despite sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and the opportunity of possibly hosting a first-round playoff match at home slipping away, Gerhard Struber and his men travel to the state capital of Georgia, where an equally desperate Atlanta United side looking to make a push for the playoffs themselves.
The starting eleven was roughly the same as the match against Orlando City with one exception, midfielder Daniel Edelman was inserted in for Frankie Amaya for a little defensive bite against an attack-minded Atlanta United lineup led by midfielder Thiago Almada looking to break the regular season hex against a team they have not beaten in regular-season play.
Midfielder Lewis Morgan got things going for the visitors in the eleventh minute when Daniel Edelman dispossessed the ball and got it to Kyle Duncan. From there, Duncan then launched a beauty of a cross that was deflected off Cristian Casseres Jr, over to the feet of Morgan, who did not miss from the center of the box for his team-leading eleventh goal of the season and his fifth of his career against Atlanta.
The Red Bulls would double the lead just four minutes later. Defender John Tolkin played the ball short from a corner kick and delivered what looked like a pass at first glance but was actually a shot that floated over the head of Patrik Klimala and skipped past Atlanta goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo into the back of the net. After a five-minute check by VAR to see if Klimala was offside during the play, the goal was confirmed, much to the dismay of the home supporters, who were stunned into silence.
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda, sensing that the match, if not the season, was slipping away, made two tactical substitutions; Former Red Bulls defender Andrew Gutman and Brooks Lennon, to spice up the offense for the home side. But for every challenge Atlanta made to get back the match, the Red Bulls had an answer, repelling the attacks from the home side, frustrating them at every turn.
Atlanta United had the chance to at least deny Carlos Coronel with a clean sheet in the 90th minute when Brooks Lennon delivered a magnificent cross with the ball. Edwin Mosquera tried to get on it with a bicycle-kick volley, but it drifted well over the bar. However, Atlanta United finally broke through five minutes into stoppage time as Josef Martinez took a near-perfect pass from Luiz Araújo to cut the lead in half.
But... Too little, too late. They needed that goal maybe ten minutes prior. Shortly after that, referee Ted Unkel blew his whistle to end the match, giving the Red Bulls a lift with a massive road victory and a delightful trip back home to face a resurgent FC Cincinnati in Harrison on Saturday night.