Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The soccer giants of the east, the New York Red Bulls, faced off in a highly-anticipated early MLS season matchup and came away victorious.

New York Red Bulls at Atlanta United
May 20, 2018
Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Christopher Penso
Cameron Blanchard
Brian Poeschel
Fotis Bazakos
Mark Geiger

Game Summary

The New York Red Bulls, on Sunday, May 20, played Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This was only the third meeting between the two sides. With the absence of Luis Robles (knee injury) from the line-up RBNY saw Ryan Meara, New York Native in the starting eleven.

RBNY came away victorious 3-1 as Atlanta suffered a Greg Garza red card and RBNY suffered the loss of Kemar Lawrence to what seemed to be a severe injury. Bradley Wright-Phillips (2) and Daniel Royer (1 PK) were the goal scorers for RBNY.

Despite the strong Atlanta atmosphere and side, Jesse Marsch, in an earlier interview expressed, “It will be a big challenge going down to Atlanta, but one we are really excited for.”

Before the match, RBNY led the series with one win and one tie. Goals also favored RBNY 2-1. This season, New York Red Bulls sit in fifth place with nine games played and 18 points. Atlanta, in the same conference, sit in first place with eleven games played and 25 points. While the games played difference is two, the points per game is nearly even.

Thus far, New York Red Bulls and Atlanta are two of the league’s highest scoring teams. RBNY with 23 and ATL with 25. Similarly, these teams are only two goals apart in goals conceded, RBNY with 11 and ATL with 13.

While Josef Martínez and Miguel Almirón have been lighting up the scoreboard for Atlanta, RBNY have seen several top scorers such as Bradley Wright-Phillips, Florian Valot, and Kaku. This depth has allowed RBNY to be competitive no matter who is on the pitch.

High Pressure Start

RBNY started the game with a high press that startled Atlanta. Most of the opening minutes were played in Atlanta’s half.

An early chance in the fifth minute saw BWP receiving a ball near the top of Atlanta’s eighteen-yard box. He was, however, called offside.

In the thirteenth minute, Daniel Royer cracked a strong volley on frame from a poor clearing header from an Atlanta defender. Brad Guzan, however, was equal to the powerful shot from just outside the top of the eighteen-yard box.

Ryan Meara Comes up Big

In the 21st minute, Ryan Meara came up huge as he stopped a far-post shot from inside the eighteen-yard box from Miguel Almirón. The save made fans remember why RBNY has kept him on the roster since Luis Robles took over.

Again, in the 24th minute, Ryan Meara saved another break away shot from Martínez right at the eighteen-yard box.

In the 27th minute, a deflected shot found the feet of Ezequiel Barco who capitalized on the opportunity and scored from about ten yards from the goal.

In the 31st minute, Martínez found himself one on one with Meara as the RBNY defense collapsed. Ryan Meara slipped on the artificial turf that gave a lot of trouble to both teams. Originally what was called a goal, soon after, VAR reversed the goal as Martínez was called for a foul on Tim Parker that enabled the breakaway.

In the 40th minute, BWP was pulled down near the penalty spot in a battle for a Royer flick into the box. The referee subsequently blew the whistle for a penalty kick. Royer stepped up to take the penalty kick and converted the opportunity by calmly chipping the ball down the center passed a diving Brad Guzan.

The first half was characterized by physical play by both teams, which was made sloppy by the artificial turf. Players were slipping and sliding as the turf bounced the ball in unpredictable ways. As a result, both teams played to a hard fought 1-1 draw at halftime.

Halftime Stats

Goals: RBNY 1 – ATL 1
Shots: RBNY 4 – ATL 7
Shots on Goal: RBNY 3 – ATL 4
Possession: RBNY 48.2% – ATL 51.8%

RBNY Kick it Into Gear

VAR came in handy in the beginning of the second half as Jeff Larentowicz was originally issued a red card for a fouled, but was later changed to a more suitable yellow.

In the 51st minute, BWP received a pin-point cross from Michael Murillo from the right side of the field. BWP’s first-time header powered the shot passed Guzan’s right side.

In the 55th minute BWP, again, scored a header from a Kaku cross that resulted from an Atlanta turnover.

The offensive shift for Atlanta came around the 64th minute when Kevin Kratz and Héctor Villalba were subbed into the game. Subsequently, opportunities continued to come for RBNY.

In the 71st minute, Atlanta’s night got worse as Greg Garza received a red card for a malicious tackle with studs shown on Sean Davis.

Lawrence and Adams Injuries

A bit later, Kemar Lawrence received awkward contact with the ball as he successfully cleared the ball. Tyler Adams also suffered a knee injury during play. Lawrence took a significant amount of time to be carted off the field in a neck brace.

Fans were supportive as they cheered for Lawrence as he was seen being carted off of the field. Jesse Marsch also raced down to the exit to ensure that Lawrence was commended for his efforts.

ESNY wishes Kemar Lawrence a speedy recovery.

After the twelve-minute stoppage time, the New York Red Bulls came away victorious with all three points as they defeated the first-place Atlanta United. Thanks to BWP and Ryan Meara, New York Red Bulls now sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the best points per game rating in the league.

Final Stats:

Goals: RBNY 3 – ATL 1
Shots: RBNY 14 – ATL 12
Shots on Goal: RBNY 6 – ATL 7
Possession: RBNY 51.1% – ATL 48.9%

RBNY’s next game is against Philadelphia on the May 26.

Chris Sudol is a former college soccer player who now avidly supports the New York Red Bulls, Arsenal, and Barcelona, among many other soccer teams.