To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s crucial matchup against New York City FC, we spoke to Christian Smith of Hudson River Blue to get his take on the first leg, what NYC has to do differently, and if he expects the men in blue to pull of the comeback in Atlanta.
DSS: First, what were your main takeaways from the first leg?
HRB: Not to sound salty or anything, but the biggest takeaway for me was Yangel Herrera’s goal being called back after referee Kevin Stott deemed David Villa’s bicycle kick as “dangerous play,” a call I strongly disagree with. That’s not to say that I think NYCFC played great -- we didn’t. But had that goal stood, the second leg takes on a whole new shape.
DSS: What does NYC have to do differently in Atlanta?
HRB: They need to not turn the ball over in the midfield and put immense pressure on Atlanta’s defense. The more you keep the ball in the opposing half, the more likely it is you get a goal. I wouldn’t be surprised if NYCFC were to commit 8 or 9 players to crowd the box and its surrounding perimeter to make sure they get at least one.
Another thing they absolutely must do is distribute the ball evenly. Too many times in the first leg we saw a City attacker fall under pressure and immediately look for Villa in the middle. As great as he is, Villa cannot be relied upon to do it all by himself and in order to maker sure he can do what he does best, it’ll be best to make sure that other attacking threats like Tajouri-Shradi or even Maxi Moralez get their fair share amount of time on the ball in order to free up space.
DSS: Do you expect NYC to make it through to the next round? Why or why not?
HRB: I want to say yes. Trust me, I do. But statistically speaking, we have been atrocious on the road all season. Obviously, a 1-0 aggregate is not at all insurmountable, away goal or no away goal. But taking into consideration City’s road woes this season and placing them in an environment where they will have to face one of MLS’s best teams in a stadium that will likely have around 70,000 people in it has disaster written all over it.
Plus, we still have Dome Torrent as our coach. And his track record is.. not great.