Getting off to good start important for Atlanta United vs. NYCFC

Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon dribbles the ball during the match against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on Wednesday November 3, 2021. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)
Caption
Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon dribbles the ball during the match against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on Wednesday November 3, 2021. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United

Atlanta United completed two important accomplishments in its final two regular-season games.

First, it toughly held on to earn a valuable point despite being outplayed at the New York Red Bulls.

Second, for only the second time in more than 30 instances, it rallied to win on the road after allowing the first goal, defeating Cincinnati 2-1 despite falling behind 1-0.

Both were good preparation for the playoffs, where getting a result is more important than passing the eye test. On Sunday at NYCFC, Atlanta United may need to combine the two lessons learned to survive and advance at Yankee Stadium.

“We’re just going to have to see how the first few minutes go,” winger Jake Mulraney said. “Our style of play as far as to take possession. But now we just have to wait and see. I mean, if if they give us time and space to play, then I’m sure we can play, but we’re going to have to have some sort of alternative if the choices of the competition make it difficult.”

Getting through the first 15 minutes will be critical.

NYCFC has scored nine goals in the first 15 minutes of its games. That’s the third-most among a game’s six 15-minute segments.

Atlanta United has allowed only two goals in the first 15 minutes of its games. That’s the fewest among the 15-minute segments.

“I think guys are, are looking forward to the game,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “But that being said, you know, I can’t tell you how we’re going to start. I can’t tell you how guys are going to wake up in the morning on game day. But it’s going to be important that we show up ready to play because I know New York City is going to certainly bring it, and if we want to do something special, and in a short amount of time, we have to make sure we come prepared for Sunday.”

Getting off to that good start will require aggressiveness. When he was managing the U.S. men’s national team against Portugal in the 2002 World Cup, Bruce Arena was quoted as telling the players to take the initiative. Make the first tackle, commit the first foul, take the first shot. That’s the approach that Atlanta United will need: Win the first duel, in which Atlanta United led MLS (54.6 percent), etc.

“It’s vital to win those second balls,” fullback Brooks Lennon said. “It’s such a short, condensed field, there’s going to be a lot opportunities to win first and second balls. So yeah, we need to be out there, we need to be gritty in this game and you know, fight; we need to give everything we have.”

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Atlanta United’s playoff schedule

Nov. 21 at NYCFC, 3 p.m., ABC

Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0

June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0

July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0

July 21 Atlanta United 1, Cincinnati 1

July 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Orlando 3, Atlanta United 2

Aug. 4 Atlanta United 2, Montreal 2

Aug. 7 Atlanta United 3, Columbus 2

Aug. 15 Atlanta United 1, LAFC 0

Aug. 18 Atlanta United 1, Toronto 0

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, D.C. United 1

Aug. 28 Nashville 2, Atlanta United 0

Sept. 10 Atlanta United 3, Orlando 0

Sept. 15 Atlanta United 4, Cincinnati 0

Sept. 18 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

Sept. 25 Philadelphia 1, Atlanta United 0

Sept. 29 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 0

Oct. 2 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

Oct. 16 Atlanta United 2, Toronto 0

Oct. 20 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

Oct. 27 Atlanta United 2, Miami 1

Oct. 30 Atlanta United 1, Toronto1

Nov. 3 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

Nov. 7 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 1

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