Atlanta Goals: Martinez 25' & 82', Almiron 42'
NYCFC Goals: Chanot 45'
New York City FC’s 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs campaign came to an end in Atlanta at the Eastern Conference semifinals stage.
The Boys in Blue lost 3-1 in the second leg at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, meaning Atlanta United advance to the Conference finals with a 4-1 aggregate win.
In front of more than 70,000 (+ a couple hundred New Yorkers), New York had to ride out a rocky opening 10 minutes in Leg Two.
Atlanta set about trying to kill off any resistance early but Domènec Torrent’s side were well organized and always seemed to have a man over to plug the gaps and prevent themselves from being opened up.
It was NYC who forced the first good save of the match on 14' through Yangel Herrera, who made excellent contact with his header from an Ismael Tajouri-Shradi cross, which surely would have beaten Brad Guzan, if placed either side of him.
As it was, the Atlanta ‘keeper was able to scramble the ball into his grasp and the chance was gone.
The Boys in Blue had done a good job of riding out the early pressure and grew into the game between 10’ and 20’, but they were chasing a 2-0 tie deficit on 25’ when Tajouri-Shradi was found guilty of sliding out Franco Escobar in the box and Josef Martinez converted the penalty.
Torrent acted, switching to a 3-5-2 formation which saw City gain more of a foothold in the possession battle, and gave the visitors a couple of looks in behind the Atlanta back four, with Villa unfortunate not to bring down a clever Alex Ring wedge over the top.
However, Atlanta doubled their lead on 42’ thanks to Almiron’s arcing free-kick into the top left corner of the net.
Just when it looked like Atlanta had finished NYCFC off, Maxime Chanot crashed home a header from Villa’s deflected free-kick in first half stoppage-time to kindle hopes of a miraculous second half turnaround.
Valentin Castellanos was brought on for yellow-carded Yangel Herrera at the halftime break as NYCFC threw caution to the wind in search of the two goals required to keep MLS Cup dreams alive.
Maxi Moralez and Valentin Castellanos both forced good saves from Guzan in the opening 10’ of the second half as NYC served notice of their intentions to not go gently into the good night.
They kept fighting and pushing forward but the space would just not open up the way it did for Atlanta who finally ended the tie on the counter with Martinez thumping home with eight minutes remaining.
New York had made a game of it but their Playoffs campaign would end at the Conference semifinal stage for the third-successive season.
NYCFC.com Star of the Game
As he did on his last appearance for NYCFC at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Alex Ring put out fires all over the pitch and battle as hard as anyone out there.
A warrior, this defeat will have hurt the Finn and he’ll be eager to put it right in his third season at the club.
NYCFC XI: Johnson, Tinnerholm, Callens, Chanot, Sweat, Ring, Herrera, Moralez, Tajouri-Shradi, Medina, Villa (C)
Subs: Stuver, Ibeagha, Amagat, Matarrita, Ofori, Wallace, Castellanos