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Atlanta United draws with New York Red Bulls, remain in playoff contention

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This matchup always takes me back to the 2017-18 era

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United drew with the New York Red Bulls 0-0 in Red Bull Arena on Wednesday evening. It wasn’t great or even entertaining, but the Five Stripes survived an away trip to one of the only teams that has figured out Atlanta United (in the regular season). Had Atlanta won, the Five Stripes would have clinched a spot in the 2021 playoffs.

The only change from last Saturday’s draw with Toronto FC was the introduction of Franco Ibarra into the midfield and Josef Martinez starting on the bench.

This match has been a plague on MLS since March 5, 2017 when these two teams first met. It’s always a battle of two contrasting styles of soccer, and one one of them seems to always win (or at least not lose. But only in the regular season.) This matchup was always going to be tough for Atlanta for a couple reasons. Firstly, Atlanta’s never beaten the Red Bulls in the regular season. The Red Bulls have six wins, while the best Atlanta’s been able to muster is three draws. Secondly, Atlanta has never scored at Red Bull Arena. Thirdly, Atlanta’s away record in MLS this season is 3-6-6.

Tonight, though, may have been among the most demoralizing of the meetings between Atlanta and New York. The Red Bulls’ press was far too much for Atlanta to handle, and Atlanta almost finished the night with no shots if not for George Bello’s late effort. The press created a disconnect between the back line and the Ibarra-Rossetto pivot and the front three of Barco, Araújo and Moreno, which resulted in Atlanta failing to create any chances for the majority of the match. The Red Bulls also out-passed Atlanta 410-338.

Heading into this match, both sides had the chance to clinch a playoff spot. A tie would have done the trick, but Montreal’s 2-0 over the Houston Dynamo means that the Five Stripes will have to go into Decision Day with everything to play for.

The good news is that Orlando and New York didn't clinch playoff spots either. There are six teams still fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Here’s a look at the MLS Eastern Conference standings after tonight’s results:

There weren’t many highlight reel moments, but there were still some chances for the Red Bulls to go ahead of Atlanta. Both of these chances fell to Patryk Klimala, but he was denied by both the crossbar and a brilliant one-on-one save from Brad Guzan.

Atlanta United will play its final match of the 2021 regular season against last-place Cincinnati FC on Sunday, Nov. 8 in TQL Stadium. Should be a good one. See you then.