MLS Focus: Battle of Atlanta takes MLS to bigger stage

Photo courtesy of Atlanta United

The meeting between unbeaten New York City FC and Atlanta United, first and second in the Eastern Conference, lived up to its billing. Even if they had to settle for a 2-2 ties, both teams could take a lot of positives out of the game.

Even though Atlanta United twice blew leads, head coach Gerardo Martino said the game was probably the best the Five Stripes have played in MLS.

Greg Garza and Chris McCann scored for Atlanta United, but NYCFC answered both times with goals by David Villa and Alex Ring. Villa scored on a penalty kick three minutes after he came on late in the first half because Ismael Tajouri-Shradi suffered a hamstring injury.

“[It was] probably a fair result," said Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst, "because we were at home and we’ve had a good run of things. I think we were a little disappointed that we weren’t able to win the game especially having two leads in the game. But all in all, [it was] a fair result, I think we can hold our heads high and get ready for next week.”

Atlanta United thought it had a third goal but Darlington Nagbe's go-ahead goal in the 41th minute was overturned after video review. Josef Martinez, standing next to NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson, was ruled to have been in an offside position.

The game marked the debut of Argentine teenager Ezequiel Barco, the most expensive signing in MLS history.

“I think that he looked good," said Martino. "Physically, I thought he looked fine. He was dynamic. I think that he was missing a little bit in his precision and when he came on we went to four midfielders and we had Nagbe and Jeff [Larentowicz] playing inside with Barco on the right and Miguel [Almiron] on the left.”

NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said he didn't want to concentrate on Barco alone when he entered the game.

“We knew how good they are," he said, "and it was important for us to keep our shape and to be well organized on the field. We knew how good they were with the ball, and I think, at times, we defended quite well. That game tonight was a big game of football. When we look at the tactical side, two different teams with two different shapes. Tactically, I think it was a higher game of football. You have talent on both teams, and of course, the atmosphere, the stage makes it even bigger."

Vieira was pleased to get a point four days after NYCFC's first midweek game of the season, a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake.

"I am really happy for the team because it wasn’t easy at all," he said. "They fight. They work hard and taking the point against a really strong team, knowing we played a few days ago, it is a really important point and really good point to go back to New York with.”

The game was NYCFC's first at Mercedes-Benz Stadium since it opened last summer, and Vieira said the atmosphere was the best in MLS.

“Yes, of course, it is a soccer atmosphere," he said. "I think it is important for international journalists to come over and to look at the stadium, to look at the quality of the games because I think the game today was a really good game of football. Tactically, it was really interesting and this is good for MLS.”

1 comment about "MLS Focus: Battle of Atlanta takes MLS to bigger stage".
  1. frank schoon, April 16, 2018 at 10:18 a.m.

    < "Tactically, it was really interesting and this is good for MLS.”>Why wasn't elaborated on by journalists...  It becomes high time that American soccer journalists begin to move beyond just reporting about soccer and get into more of the technical/tactical details as well, if  the American soccer public is to become better educated about the game. It would have been interesting to those who appreciate and see the game at a higher perspective to know some of the tactical nuances. Not everybody that is interesting in soccer comes to the game with a drum or tooter but prefer to 'see' the game and what is really happening out there. This is one aspect about the game that I sorely miss, the more insightful aspect about the game which gives the game more color, that soccer journalists and tv commentator lack in educating the public .

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