Red Bulls Give Atlanta United A Rude Welcome

USA Today

After crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday, Red Bull New York opened their 2017 MLS campaign in Atlanta as they helped christen the city’s new franchise. What appeared to be a dream start for Atlanta United quickly turned into nightmare as the visitors came away with a gutty 2-1 victory.

Former Serie A striker Josef Martinez got the party started when he kicked off the match at 7:48pm. Jesse Marsch had New York line up in their new 4-2-2 formation, with Alex Muyl getting the start for the injured Gonzalo Veron. World renowned Atlanta manager Tata Martino started his club off in a 4-5-1 formation, with Martinez the lone striker.

The first dangerous opportunity came in the 11th minute when Sal Zizzo intercepted a pass from Atlanta goalkeeper Alex Kann, dribbled pass a defender towards the touchline, and found defender Aaron Long alone in front. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, the rookie couldn’t handle the pass and skirted a shot well wide of the largely open net.

History was made in the 25th minute when Argentinian import Yamil Asad netted the first goal in Atlanta history. A gorgeous pass from Tyrone Mears from 35 yards found out Asad, left unmarked by Alex Muyl, who put it between Luis Robles’ legs to open the scoring. The 30,000+ fans raised their voices to celebrate as the players joyously piled on top of Asad.

Robles made sure the match stayed 1-0 in the 44th minute with an early candidate for save of the year. Josef Martinez slipped past Aaron Long in the box before receiving an incisive pass and one-timed a shot from point blank range. However, MLS’s ironman reacted impeccably as he dove to his left and tipped the ball past the left post. It would not be the last game-changing save for Robles in his Man of The Match performance.

Atlanta controlled the first 75 minutes with blazing speed from the midfield trio of Asad, Miguel Almiron, and Hector Villalba. Unfortunately playing such a high tempo backfired late in the match as the hosts seemingly ran out of energy. In the 76th minute, new captain Sacha Kljestan sent a corner kick to the far side of the box where Austrian forward Daniel Royer rose high above a defender and headed home the equalizer with thunderous pace. Suddenly it was the Red Bulls who were full of energy while the hosts were flailing.

In the 82nd minute, with Atlanta trying hard to maintain a point, Mike Grella slipped past one of their defenders and laid off a cheeky backheel for Kemar Lawrence inside the box before the Jamaican sent a cross toward Bradley Wright-Phillips in front. Though the reigning Golden Boot winner couldn’t get to it, the ball ricocheted off defender Anton Walkes and into the net to give the visitors a 2-1 lead on an own goal.

What was once a party turned into funeral in the 88th minute when Carlos Carmona dug his spikes into an injured Felipe right in front of referee Mark Geiger who brandished a red card and sealed Atlanta’s fate. As the final whistle sounded on their 2-1 victory, New York players ran off the bench to celebrate with their teammates and thank the traveling fans who made the trip down south.

The Red Bulls return home on Saturday to host the Tim Howard and the Colorado Rapids.