- The last time these two teams met, NYCFC needed to score a late free kick to save a draw in Atlanta. Before that game, NYCFC went five games in a row without a win, then developed some momentum with three wins and a draw in the final weeks of the season. Is this team hitting form at the right time, and how confident is NYCFC feeling right now?
The end-of-season feeling was euphoric: Undefeated in five games, Golden Boot for Taty Castellanos. That desperate free kick was cathartic, and put the team back on track: Thank you, Atlanta. But there are some issues around our defensive midfield. Keaton Parks underwent surgery for a blood clot and is out for the rest of the season, Nicolás Acevedo is also out, and Gideon Zelalem was given an iffy red card on Decision Day and can’t play. Ronny Deila has to puzzle this one out.
2. How will NYCFC use Yankee Stadium to their advantage against Atlanta United?
I’m convinced teams play better at Yankee Stadium after getting a red card—the narrow field is so tight you almost want fewer players out there. The best thing NYCFC can do is get a straight red. A more serious answer: Yankee Stadium is a crucible, and visiting teams have won only six matches out of 70 played. The field favors the technical game that NYCFC plays over the more athletic games you see elsewhere in MLS.
3. Who are some players Atlanta United fans should keep an eye on, and what kind of threat do those players pose?
Aside from Castellanos? Santiago Rodríguez is a devastating attacking midfielder, quick and tricky with the ball. He’s a playmaker who can score, and he goes all-out. James Sands and Alexander Callens are lethal in defense. Malte Amundsen delivers delicious crosses. If these players are on their game, NYCFC will be powerful and balanced.
4. What’s one matchup you think you think will be pivotal in this game?
The Castellanos/Miles Robinson matchup will be spicy. I think it will be physical, and tense, and that Castellanos will come out ahead. He’s become more disciplined, a ruthless goalscorer who draws fouls. He’s also selfless, with eight assists on the year—if Robinson marks him out of scoring opportunities he’ll still be in the buildup play, stretch the defense and feed goals to others.