The victory keeps New York City six points ahead of second-place Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have two games remaining on the season and NYCFC is plus-11 in goal differential over the Union. The winner of the Eastern Conference regular-season receives a bye in the opening round of the playoffs.
Over a period of 20 minutes, the Romanian found the back of the net three times against the defending Major League Soccer champions. With 12 goals on the season, Mitriță joins teammates Héber (15) and Vallentin Castellanos (11) as the third NYCFC player to reach the double-digit goal mark.
“More important is the victory tonight, we played amazing and we have an amazing team,” Mitriță said. “I’m very happy for my first hat trick.”
His first goal came in the 14th minute as his curling shot found its way past Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan and into the upper 90. In the 23rd minute, Mitriță extended New York City’s lead to two as his shot kissed the near post and settled into the back of the net.
His hat-track came in the 34th minute after Guzan spilled a shot from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Mitriță tapped home the rebound.
In the 42nd minute, NYCFC had a chance to extend its lead to four. Maxi Moralez was taken down in the box by Florentin Pogba, who was called for the penalty. Moralez stepped to the spot but dragged his shot wide.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half, Atlanta United would cut New York City’s lead to two. Maxime Chanot was called for a foul in the box and Pitz Martinez scored on the ensuing spot cut to make the score 3-1.
But Héber would get the lead back to three with his goal in the 87th minute.
NYCFC head coach Domenec Torrent was pleased to see his star striker back on the pitch after missing time due to injury.
“It’s good. It’s very important for a player to come back and play after his injury, especially for the striker to score,” he said. “The most important thing is to arrive to the playoffs healthy.”
Up next for New York City is a road match against the New England Revolution. Kickoff on Sunday is 5 p.m.