New York City FC takes on Atlanta United on Sunday in the MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference semifinals first leg at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night.
Here are the Major Keys to the Match, presented by Tri-State Ford…
Neck and Neck
Sunday will mark the fifth meeting between NYCFC and Atlanta United and the teams cannot be separated on the head-to-head.
Both sides won 3-1 in their home meetings in Atlanta’s inaugural 2017 season and the teams have shared two ties in the 2018 clashes, meaning history gives us no clues as to how this one will turn out.
That said, City did everything but win in Patrick Vieira’s final game in charge in June, with Brad Guzan by far the busier of the two goalkeepers with 25 shots raining in on the away goal.
Home Field Advantage
Reasons to believe...
NYC’s home form has been as good as any other MLS team’s in 2018, with just one defeat in the Bronx this year (tied for fewest in the league).
We took 2.4 points per game at home this year, allowing just 0.6 goals per game and scoring 2.1 on average.
Dating back to last season, we have lost just one of our last 21 home games (14 W 6D), keeping nine clean sheets and allowing multiple goals just twice in that span.
In a two-legged match, with away goals in play, getting a positive result at home to take to Atlanta will be key if we’re to advance to our first-ever Conference final vs. Columbus Crew or Red Bulls.
Respecting the Opponent
That said, Tata Martino’s Atlanta won 10 of their 17 road games in 2018, tied for the third-best record in an MLS season ever.
Although they did slip to defeats in their last two trips away from the Mercedes Benz Stadium in the Regular Season by a combined 6-1 scoreline, their bye past the Knockout Round had already been assured by that stage.
In Josef Martinez, they have a striker who broke the MLS scoring record set by Roy Lassiter in 1996 and in Miguel Almiron they have one of the most explosive players in the league... just two of the many weapons Dome will be preparing his players to face up against.
There are mouthwatering duels all over the field in one of the most intriguing head-to-heads that MLS can serve up and we get treated to 180 minutes of it over the next week.
“We Are A Team”
NYCFC have a Head Coach with extensive experience of preparing teams for two-legged tournament soccer in Domènec Torrent.
Alongside Pep Guardiola, Dome lifted 24 trophies in 10 years for Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City, so Torrent is well versed in helping to create the right energy and environment for progress in big competitions when they reach their latter stages.
After the win vs. Philly in the Knockout Round, Dome posted a photo of the team huddle with the simple copy: “We are a team” on his Instagram.
That’s how it looked on the field, too: “a team”... a team who will dare to dream they can edge past the high-powered team who finished one position above them in the Eastern Conference.
Turn up. Bring the noise. Come on New York! Let's get this done...