New York City FC Goals: Castellanos 49’, Callens 53’
Atlanta United Goals:
New York City FC were hoping for a big win on Sunday as they welcomed Atlanta United to the Bronx for their Round One MLS Cup Playoff clash. A tight and testing first half saw both teams try to strike a rhythm and control possession with few clear-cut chances. In the second period, a well-taken volley from Taty Castellanos in the 49th minute opened the scoring and was followed by Alex Callens pouncing on a rebound three minutes later to double the advantage. That would be enough to secure a memorable win and send the Boys in Blue to the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New England Revolution.
New York City FC knew they had a simple task on their hands on Sunday - beat Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium and head to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Head Coach Ronny Deila was forced into one change with his starting XI as Gedion Zelalem missed out through suspension; Tayvon Gray entering in his place and shifting James Sands into midfield.
Both sides were keen to control possession and that created a cagey first fifteen minutes. When NYCFC did get the ball down Maxi Moralez was central to the team’s creative efforts, and in a game of few chances, the half-hour mark saw a quick combination between Moralez and Jesús Medina that allowed the veteran to square it back to Medina, only for George Bello to intercept.
At the other end, Marcelino Moreno flashed a shot wide of Sean Johnson’s post after engineering a yard of space at the top of the box, but that would prove to be the visitors' best chance of the half.
The game’s opener almost arrived in spectacular style in the 39th minute when Alfredo Morales unleashed a ferocious drive that forced Brad Guzan into an impressive save.
As half-time approached NYCFC continued to try and break the deadlock. In the 44th minute, Santiago Rodríguez collected a clipped pass from James Sands and calmly slotted it home, only for the assistant’s flag to deny him via an offside.
The second half started with the hosts going for an early goal, and their first chance came via an overhead kick attempt from Taty Castellanos.
The MLS Golden Boot winner would not be denied in the 49th minute, however, when a deep cross from Moralez found him free at the back post to drive a volley into the ground and past Guzan.
NYCFC now had the momentum, and four minutes later they had a second. Once again Moralez would be central to the play that came via a set-piece, with his fierce effort forcing Guzan to divert the ball onto the crossbar.
The sprawling save denied Moralez a goal, but left Guzan helpless to stop Alex Callens nodding in the rebound from close range. Atlanta weren't ready to surrender just yet, however, and quick-thinking from Guzan saw him find Moreno in space, who in turn squared it to Josef Martinez - his effort tipped wide by Johnson.
Still keen to build further distance between themselves and their opponents, NYCFC pushed forward in search of a third and in the 75th minute that saw Morales attempt another effort from distance that did not trouble the goalkeeper.
As the clock ticked towards the 84th minute Ronny Deila turned to his bench and introduced Talles Magno in place of the tireless Rodríguez who departed to raucous applause from the home fans.
That would be followed by the 89th-minute arrival of Tony Rocha for Medina, but not before Johnson did well to palm away an Alan Franco header from a corner. Franco's day would end with an injury-time dismissal after he collected a second yellow card for dissent. Sensing the game was winding down, Deila's final change of the game came deep into stoppage time when Andres Jasson subbed in for the injured Morales.
That would be the final notable act of the afternoon which confirmed NYCFC's passage into the next round of playoffs, where they will meet New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Semifinal.
Heineken Man of the Match
How We Lined Up
Next up for New York City FC is an Eastern Conference Semifinal meeting with New England Revolution at Gilette Stadium on November 30, 2021. The game will be broadcast on FS1.