Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino didn’t want to remind his team of its opponent’s history after it defeated New York Red Bulls 3-0 in the first leg of the MLS playoffs on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The second leg will be on Thursday in Harrison, N.H.
In its Eastern Conference semifinal, Red Bulls scored three goals in the second leg at home to knock out Columbus.
“I didn’t want to be so pessimistic on such a happy afternoon,” he said.
There’s pessimism and then there’s history.
Since the MLS changed its playoff format in 2003, no team that faced a three-goal deficit after the first leg has advanced to the next round of the playoffs. That deficit has been faced four times.
“We know Red Bulls are capable of scoring three goals at home so the only thing we know is that we are satisfied with this win but we have to get ready for the next game,” Martino said.
The Red Bulls do have positive muscle memory.
First, they were almost unbeatable at home, going 14-2-1 during the regular season.
Second, one of those wins was a 2-0 dominating defeat of Atlanta United in late September.
“It’s going to be challenging,” Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst said. “We know that nothing is over yet. We’ve put ourselves in a good spot and that’s it. It’s up to us to go up there and take advantage of the 90 minutes we put in today.”
Atlanta United also has positive muscle memory.
First, it was the best road team in MLS history, going 10-5-2 during the regular season. It also defeated NYCFC 1-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, holding the Cityzens without a shot on goal at Yankee Stadium.
Second, it only allowed three or more goals three times during the regular season.
“It’s the intensity that you bring to the game,” Atlanta United’s Jeff Larentowicz said. “If you are willing to fight, willing to get into the other team’s face, I think you are going to be OK. We have to expect them to come out with the same attitude.”
Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said that is exactly how Red Bulls will play.
“Look, it is going to be difficult,” he said. “It always was going to be. We put ourselves in a hole, but we came out of a series where we scored three in our building. That is the goal. That’s the starting point. We will score the first goal, and the rest will follow. We will come out a little bit differently with the energy and the fight that is going to be needed. It is pretty what is needed to b e done. We are going to go home, and we are going to get it done.”
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