Atlanta United has vanquished one New York demon with last weekend’s groundbreaking 1-0 win over the Red Bulls, but the job is only halfway done. Gonzalo Pineda’s men will have to go up against the history books once again when it visits NYCFC at Yankee Stadium, a venue in which the Five Stripes have never won at in regular season action in five attempts (2 draws and 3 losses for the good guys).
New York has gone through a bit of a bumpy start to the season, at least by their lofty standards. The Citizens have 8 points through 6 games, good enough for 6th in the Eastern Conference. Nick Cushing has taken full charge of the club after serving as interim for the second half of last season, guiding NYCFC to third in the East and a Conference final in the post-Ronny Deila and Taty Castellanos era. The departure list has only grown, however, with Sean Johnson, Anton Tinnerholm, Alexander Callens (80% of New York’s starting defense), Heber, Thiago Andrade, and Maxi Moralez all biding farewell to the Big Apple since the offseason began.
Two months into the 2023 season, the attack has felt the brunt of those exits. New York has scored 6 goals in as many games, the 10th-best tally in the East. To make matters worse, three of those strikes came in one game against DC United and NYCFC hasn’t scored multiple goals in any other match. The youthful attacking trio of Talles Magno (2g), Gabriel Pereira (1g, 2a), and Santiago Rodriguez (1g, 1a) have more than enough talent to cause the rest of the league serious problems, but so far it just hasn’t clicked yet without midfield maestro Maxi Moralez running the show or a traditional striker like Heber up front.
Atlanta’s reward for beating the Red Bulls at long last is a two-game road trip to NYCFC and Toronto - two venues where the Five Stripes haven’t exactly thrived of late. The good news is that no matter what happens, it surely can’t go worse than Atlanta’s other road test this season went and Pineda should have an almost complete squad at his disposal. The Five Stripes showed a different side of their character than we’d seen so far in the Red Bulls victory and while it didn’t make for the prettiest of matches, it’s the type of personality and play style that’s going to be crucial to picking up results in these next two road games.
The Citizens have an ever-so-slight advantage in the all-time series, which Atlanta trails 4W-4D-5L and hasn’t won since August of 2019.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: NYCFC 2-3 Atlanta United
If Atlanta can beat the Red Bulls in the regular season then truly anything can happen. The Five Stripes will pick up its second-ever win in all competitions at Yankee Stadium thanks to a Giorgos Giakoumakis brace and a late Thiago Almada game-winner to cap off a wild, back-and-forth ninety minutes.