Atlanta United FC defeat New York City FC, qualify for Eastern Conference Finals

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ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 11: Ismael Tajouri #29 of New York City commits a foul inside the penalty box against Franco Escobar #2 of Atlanta United during the Eastern Conference Semifinals between New York City FC and Atlanta United FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. The foul led to a penalty kick goal by Josef Martinez #7. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, GA. (November 11, 2018) – Atlanta United FC defeat New York City FC in the MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Atlanta United FC defeat New York City FC, qualify for Eastern Conference Finals

The first half was nearly all Atlanta United. The Five Stripes came out swarming with numbers with Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Julian Gressel, and Greg Garza all getting involved in the attack.

First blood was drawn in the 25th minute. Franco Escobar got into the attack and was tackled in the box on the ball by Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. A penalty was called and Martinez converted, sending goalkeeper Sean Johnson the wrong way.

Atlanta doubled their advantage (and went up 3-0 on aggregate) in the 42nd minute. Off a free kick opportunity in the middle of the field in the final third. Almiron curled the ball over the wall and inside the near post to make it 2-0.

Just before halftime, the Cityzens pulled one back. On a free kick, David Villa’s free-kick was deflected and Maxime Chanot was able to pounce on the ball, scoring a header goal.

NYCFC had the ball for most of the second half but could not muster a comeback. Martinez scored in the 83rd minute to seal the victory. The match ended 3-1 with the final aggregate score 4-1.

Three takeaways:

Almiron is back: After missing the end of the season due to injury, Almiron has started both playoff games so far for Atlanta. He played 84 minutes tonight and scored a goal. With some time off for the international window, he’ll have plenty of time to stay healthy.

Villa’s future: David Villa is 36-years-old and out of contract with NYCFC. He was injured for a good portion of the season. The club has regressed under Dominic Torrent and one has to seriously wonder if they’ll be a contender in 2018. Villa could very well have played his last game in MLS.

Five Stripes ready to contend: Atlanta United were clearly the better team in both games of this two-leg series. The offense is clicking and other than a goal off a deflection, they were set to have two clean sheets in this game. They are set to contend in the conference finals and be the favorite should they make it to MLS Cup.

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