New York City FC Comes Up A Goal Short In Atlanta

New York City, Sean Johnson
Sean Johnson made several big saves against Atlanta United. Photo: Dale Zanine-USA Today Sports

A meeting between MLS Eastern Conference rivals went the way of Atlanta United, which defeated New York City FC 2-1 Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The narrow margin of victory for Atlanta does not reflect the home side’s dominating performance throughout much of the match. If not for the heroics of NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who was credited with seven saves, the final score would have more heavily favored the defending MLS Champions. 

Throughout the first half, Atlanta dominated play and possession and had several high-quality scoring chances. But Johnson and his defense would stiffen at key moments to keep the game scoreless

“If we want to be a top team, we have to play better,” said NYCFC midfielder Alex Ring. “It is that simple. I think in the first 50 to 60 minutes we lacked basic things, most of all courage. You can’t win games if you don’t play with your heart, with courage. There is a lot to think about after this game.”

Atlanta would finally get on the scoreboard just before halftime. Pity Martinez took a free-kick short to Julian Gressel. On the right flank, Gressel would send in a cross that Josef Martinez would head past Johnson for a 1-0 lead.

In the second 45, New York City picked up its pace of play but was unable to find the back of Brad Guzan’s goal. 

Atlanta would extend its lead in the 63rd minute after Josef Martinez converted a penalty kick. United was awarded a kick from the spot following a foul in the box by James Sands on Pity Martinez. 

Despite trailing by two, New York City kept battling and would claw back into the match with less than 10 minutes remaining. A strong strike from Héber would beat Guzan in the 81st minute to cut Atlanta’s lead to one.

But New York City would get no closer as Atlanta United would win its 10th home game of the season. 

Up next for NYCFC is a trip to Ohio for a home match against expansion side FC Cincinnati on Saturday, August 17. Kickoff at Nippert Stadium at 7:30 p.m.