Atlanta United took the lead twice, but league-leading NYCFC answered both times in a thrilling 2-2 draw Sunday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Both teams traded chances for the first 29 minutes, but Greg Garza and Atlanta United broke through first. Miguel Almiron picked up the pieces of his own deflected pass and charged into the box. NYCFC allowed him plenty of room to on his left side and the left-footed Almiron pushed a shot toward the left side of the net. Sean Johnson made the initial save but Garza followed the shot and finished the tap in to put Atlanta on top.
GREGORY F. GARZA pic.twitter.com/QBgSQwg5NF— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) April 15, 2018
The lead only lasted eight minutes.
In the 38th minute NYCFC strung together the prettiest string of passes of the day to play Jo Inge Berget into space on the left side. A recovering Michael Parkhurst clipped Berget in the 18-yard-box and the Pigeons were awarded a much-deserved penalty.
Penalty to #NYCFC! Great move by Berget to evade Parkhurst, who brought him down in the box. #ATLUTD #ATLvNYC #MLS pic.twitter.com/zpyXuaxLO4— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) April 15, 2018
David Villa, who entered minutes earlier as a substitute, stepped up to the spot and slipped the ball past Brad Guzan.
Quick work from the substitute @Guaje7Villa #ForTheCity pic.twitter.com/AafuyRg4Kb— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 15, 2018
Moments later it appeared that Atlanta had reclaimed the lead. Darlington Nagbe took a back pass from Julian Gressel 20 yards away from goal and one-timed the ball into the left side of the net. The dude reacted with the enthusiasm of a man who just made a cup of coffee in what appeared to be a glimpse into a cold-blooded killer mentality Nagbe had long kept hidden from the public. Instead, it turned out it was the reaction of a man who knew his goal was about to be disallowed. After a brief review from our friends in the VAR lair deep beneath the ocean, Josef Martinez was shown to have impacted the play from an offside position by shielding Sean Johnson. Unsurprisingly, VAR’s decision met negative reviews post-match.
“He could have been offside but I don’t think three or four goalies in the net would have stopped it,” Tata Martino said through a translator. “I don’t think there was any incidence in the play.”
The score stayed at 1-1 into the half.
Atlanta actually reclaimed the lead ten minutes after the break when wait what seriously? Hold on………..
That can’t be right……………..
Ok they’re saying that Chris McCann scored but we all know that’s absolutely not what happened because that’s just OHMYGOD IT WAS ACTUALLY CHRIS MCCANN
Chris McCann? CHRIS MCCANNNNN pic.twitter.com/0E9VAGeFMI— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) April 15, 2018
Kevin Kratz did well to shield the ball from NYCFC on the loose ball allowing Almiron to pick it up and sprint to the end-line. With plenty of space in front of him, Miggy lofted the ball to CHRIS. MCCANN.
“I just said everybody is piling into the box and I wanted to get there,” goalscorer Chris McCann said no seriously. “Miguel is a clever player and he sees everyone going in and he found some space. I just checked my run and he picked me out. It’s been a long time coming it’s just a pity it wasn’t a winner in the end.”
No, really. Chris McCann. From there the entire NYCFC team was forced to quit soccer forever.
Or at least they should have been.
Things stayed quiet until the 70th minute when at long last Ezequiel Barco made his Atlanta United debut.
The celebration ended quickly.
A LASER.— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 15, 2018
HIS FIRST FOR #NYCFC pic.twitter.com/95xTB0NBAn
Sports are bad. Alexander Ring’s shot in the 73rd minute was phenomenal.
Eerily similar to last year’s clash at MBS with the top team in the east, New York equalized at two goals apiece with a world class goal off the cross bar.
The Five Stripes threatened a few times late but the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
While the scoreline may have put a damper on Barco’s long-awaited debut, the $15 million dollar midfielder looked creative and threatening on the ball albeit a bit rusty. Ezequiel — along with his teammates — seemed happy with his first appearance.
“It was a tough first game to come back to but my teammates helped me feel comfortable in the field and I was lucky to get some playing time today,” Barco said through a translator. “I’m happy to get the debut but I’m unhappy with the result. It’s a beautiful experience to play here. The fans never stop chanting and it’s give you more excitement to come play in front of them.”
“It was a tough game,” goalscorer Chris McCann said. “It was a real fast game and that’s a difficult game to come into but [Barco] did very well and when he got on the ball he played some nice passes and had some nice touches. He can only grow from that and that will only benefit the team.”
Tata Martino’s review was more concise.
“I think he looked good, physically he looked fine, he was dynamic, but he was missing a little bit in his precision.” Martino said.
The Five Stripes outshot the Pigeons 16-10 but lost the possession battle for the third game in-a-row. A third-straight game without the majority of possession is an anomaly for Atlanta but something Tata says is simply part of the formation change to three at the back. Overall, Tata seemed impressed with the Five Stripes performance.
“From my point of view it’s possible this is the best game our team has played since I’ve been here,” Martino said.
The next test for Atlanta comes at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 21 when the Five Stripes travel to Los Angeles to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy and Zlatan in game that Zlatan will play in Zlatan soccer Zlatan Zlatan Zlatan Zlatan.