Recap of the MLS Eastern Conference Final First Leg

Jacob Cordeiro, Staff Writer

The New York Red Bulls secured the Supporters’ Shield Title a few weeks back and heading into the playoffs they were seeded as number one in all of MLS. The team broke numerous regular season records such as most points and wins of an any MLS squad in history. Therefore, many would argue that this is the best team MLS has ever seen. However, to show for it, they must win what matters most, and it’s something they’ve never achieved before, an MLS Cup championship. After a bye in round one, New York played the Columbus Crew and put in a poor first leg performance, but turned the series around with a 3-0 second leg win at home. They advanced and were to then meet Atlanta United, a team which they competed with all season to see who would finish first. However, Atlanta’s record against the Red Bulls was poor, so going into the game, the Red Bulls were the more confident of the two.


The first game of the Eastern Conference Finals took place this past Sunday in Atlanta. There were over 70,000 fans in attendance at the game, which kickoffed at 5:00 p.m. The Red Bulls started strong defensively but eventually as the 1st half went on, Atlanta were getting closer and closer to a goal. Finally, in the 32nd minute, Josef Martinez opened the scoring after he chested down a cross from Jeff Larentowicz. The second half began and the Red Bulls again came out strong and even scored but the goal was disallowed. Aaron Long headed the ball down and Bradley Wright Phillips finished the play off, but Muyl was standing in an offside position obstructing Brad Guzan’s line of sight. As a Red Bulls fan, I will say the right call was made, but a New York away goal would’ve really changed the whole stadium’s mood, and the tie’s momentum would’ve completely shifted into New York’s favor. Following that moment, the Red Bulls players didn’t look on the same page at all. Some wanted to push for an away goal, while others didn’t apply pressure on Atalanta and preferred keeping the score at one. As a result, Atlanta’s final third was wide open and New York’s defensive shape was terrible. The Red Bulls looked far from a team that conceded the least goals in the regular season. In the 71st minute, Franco Escobar doubled Atlanta’s lead after Miguel Almiron played a great through ball to Julian Gressel. Then, with four minutes remaining in the game, Hector Villalba made it 3-0 with a great left footed shot from outside the 18. The match finished 3-0, and to be honest, the Red Bulls could’ve lost by a lot more.


In my opinion, the Red Bulls put in their worst performance of the season, and they chose the worst time to do so. New York always does well in the regular season and make a far run in the playoffs, but tend to choke when it matters most. Many thought this would be the year it all changed and that finally they would bring home an MLS Cup, but after a 3-0 loss at Atlanta, I really don’t see them turning things around in the second leg. Atlanta United has the best record away in MLS, and I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it will take a lot for the Red Bulls to advance to the MLS Cup final.