Atlanta Goals: Remedi 37'
New York City FC will travel to Atlanta United chasing a deficit after Eric Remedi scored the only goal of the Eastern Conference semifinals first leg in the Bronx.
Tata Martino's men scrambled one in on 37' to consign City to defeat in a fragmented, physical match of few clear chances.
City’s first-ever Knockout Round win vs. Philadelphia sent them into their third-successive Eastern Conference semifinal with positive momentum but Atlanta United promised to offer a sterner examination of City’s Playoff credentials.
Dome Torrent stuck with the same XI which bested The Union 3-1 in the Bronx on Wednesday, keeping faith with Ronald Matarrita and Isi Tajouri-Shradi on either side of David Villa at the sharp end of the field.
The 180’ of soccer offered up in the Regular Season by these two teams were among the most riveting served up by MLS in 2018 but the first 45’ here was much more attritional than captivating, with 22 fouls and numerous stoppages seriously hampering the entertainment factor.
NYCFC were first to go close in the match on 16’ when Matarrita poked wide a presentable opportunity after neat work from Villa and Yangel Herrera in the build-up, while Maxime Chanot headed a chance wide from a corner shortly after.
Atlanta had the ball in the back of the net on 21’ when Miguel Almiron thumped a volley into the ground and over Sean Johnson but VAR intervened and chalked off the goal for an offside earlier in the move.
That reprieve only lasted 15 minutes as Atlanta did take the lead on 37’ through Eric Remedi, who scrambled home an opportunity at the back post after Johnson had pawed away a goalbound header.
City had been inhibited up to this point but they had cause to rue an officiating decision themselves in first-half stoppage-time, when Herrera stabbed home at the back post from a Villa bicycle kick which was deemed dangerous play for the high boot.
Down at the break, a big 45’ was required to give NYC something to take down south with them next weekend and Jo Inge Berget was sent on early in the second period to try and find it.
The Norwegian went closest to finding the equalizer on 73’ with an outstretched leg almost turning Tajouri-Shradi cross-shot into the net but the ball would fall the wrong side of the far post.
Four minutes later, Jesus Medina was introduced as the second substitute by Torrent but there were no more chances served up by the Boys in Blue, and in fact it was Atlanta who went closest to scoring the game's second goal with a shot in stoppage-time which forced an incredible save from Johnson.
It was a frustrating night for the home faithful but NYC will go again next Sunday and look to overturn the deficit on the road.
NYCFC.com Star of the Game
On a day when the game didn't flow as fluently as it might have, Maxime was a strong presence at the back for NYCFC, helping City through the tough stretches of the match with some body-on-the-line defending and numerous instances where he demonstrated his excellent reading of the game.
Capping a terrific individual performance, our Luxembourg international defender had prevented Atlanta a clear shot on goal with an incredible last-ditch tackle in second half stoppage-time just before Johnson's big save.
Could that be looked back on as a pivotal sequence in the tie next weekend? Let's hope so.
NYCFC XI: Johnson, Tinnerholm, Callens, Chanot, Sweat, Ring, Herrera, Moralez, Tajouri-Shradi, Matarrita, Villa (C)
Subs: Stuver, Ibeagha, Amagat, Medina, Ofori, Castellanos, Berget
Leg Two takes place in Atlanta at the Mercedes Benz Stadium on Sunday, November 11 (time TBD).