New York Red Bulls came back to Red Bull Arena with plenty of work to do for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals after falling 1-0 to Columbus in the first leg of their MLS playoffs matchup.
And work they did.
Alex Muyl was credited for a messy opening goal just 14 minutes in to bring New York back level on aggregate, and a quickfire Daniel Royer double with 15 minutes to go did the trick as the Red Bulls advance to conference finals for the first time since 2015.
New York dominated the match, owning a 13-12 shot advantage that was brought closer late in garbage time, and holding Columbus to just one effort on target until the 85th minute. Muyl’s opener was accidental, as Aaron Long’s shot for the far post clipped his teammate’s foot and looped over Zack Steffan to even the aggregate scoreline at 1-1. While the hosts didn’t finish with a possessional advantage, Columbus was forced to defend for stretches and keep the Red Bulls from developing big scoring chances.
For the winning goal in the 73rd minute, New York put together a spectacular team effort that saw a pair of beautiful turns from Muyl and Bradley Wright-Phillips in the build up, plus a wonderful first-touch assist by U.S. international Tyler Adams before Royer was there to poke it home. Royer then struck just three minutes later with a powerful blast into the top corner that put the match out of sight. The brace is the third for Royer in the last three months, and it broke a long scoring drought with the 28-year-old on just one goal since his last brace in mid-August.
With Columbus not going quietly down the stretch, Luis Robles made a key save to keep out Gyasi Zardes late and keep the game from getting nervy. It also preserved the clean sheet, the club’s sixth in a row at home. New York has not conceded a goal at Red Bull Arena since a 2-1 win over LAFC on August 9.
The Red Bulls will match up against Atlanta United in the conference finals, a team they beat a combined 5-1 over two matches during the regular season.
Tata Martino’s time in charge of Atlanta United isn’t over just yet.
In front of a raucous and thankful Mercedes-Benz Stadium crowd, Atlanta United advanced with a 3-1 win over NYCFC to advance to the Eastern Conference finals on a 4-1 aggregate scoreline. Josef Martinez opened the scoring by converting a penalty that featured a ridiculously colorful run-up, and Miguel Almiron delivered an exquisite free-kick to seal the deal before halftime to leave the result in little doubt.
NYCFC defender Maxime Chanot deposited an absurdly free header on a set-piece just before halftime to make things interesting, but the visitors failed to produce much with the 70% possession they held throughout the match. Martinez put the game away late as he got behind an incredibly high NYCFC back line and snatched an Eric Remedi through-ball, finishing past Sean Johnson to send the hosts through.
NYCFC playmaker Yangel Herrera struggled mightily in the first half and was yanked at halftime by manager Domenec Torrent. His replacement Valentin Castellano wasn’t able to do much more, and NYCFC ultimately was left with little to cling to, eliminated from the MLS playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third straight year.
Martino announced he is leaving Atlanta United at the end of the season, but will continue to see them through the playoffs as they reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history, set to face either Columbus or RBNY. Atlanta suffered a disappointing knockout round exit in their first year of existence last season.
Thierry Henry will be seeing Edinson Cavani in his nightmares.
The new AS Monaco manager, tasked with not just taking the club out of the relegation zone but bringing it back to relevance, has found the task tougher than imagined, obliterated by Paris Saint-Germain 4-0. Cavani had a hat-trick and Neymar added the icing on the cake as the visitors to the province moved 13 points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table.
Cavani was in the right place at the right time constantly, as all three of his goals were essentially tap-ins, although the second he was forced into a full stretch to reach the cross from Moussa Diaby. He scored his first just four minutes into the match, in space at the far post and there to redirect a Neymar shot on target. The second came in the 11th minute as Monaco found itself in a massive deficit early, and the third came just after halftime as Diaby got by the defense down the left and crossed to Cavani streaking through the back line.
Kylian Mbappe drew a penalty past the hour mark, and Neymar put it past Diego Benaglio for the 4-0 lead.
Henry has had little to cling to since taking over as Monaco boss, having earned just a single point through four matches in charge. The club hasn’t won since the first match of the season, and sits 19th in the Ligue 1 table with seven points, only off the bottom due to Guingamp’s far worse goal difference.
While Gonzalo Higuain was losing his cool at the San Siro, there was plenty of other notable action around Serie A.
Inter saw a seven-game Serie A winning streak snapped as they fell at Atalanta 4-1 in a surprising defensive dud from the Scudetto contenders. Four different goalscorers found the back of the net for Atalanta, but the defense was the star of the game, allowing just one shot on target for Inter, which resulted in Mauro Icardi’s seventh league goal of the season. The game was a one-score contest for the majority of the second half until the hosts bagged a pair in the final two minutes and change. The last goal, scored by Alejandro Gomez, was a beautiful curler that Samir Handanovic could only watch go by.
Stephen El Shaarawy scored twice in the second half as AS Roma topped Sampdoria 4-1. The visitors to the Italian capital had a pair of penalties erased by VAR, sending Sampdoria to its third straight loss while Roma moves into sixth. El Shaarawy’s second goal came on a mesmerizing counter-attack and was finished off in stunning fashion by the mercurial Italian.
Lazio was held to a 1-1 draw on the road at Sassuolo. Both goals were scored in the first 15 minutes, and Lazio held just 41% possession and managed just two shots on target as they looked to get back into the lead. Lazio substitute Joaquín Correa had the visitors’ best chance to go back in front, but he was stoned by Andrea Consigli. The draw is the first of the season for Lazio who had accumulated seven wins and four losses to this point, and their 22 points leave them fourth in the table, one point ahead of AC Milan.
Four goals in the first hour marked a 2-2 draw between Chievo Verona and Bologna. Each side threw away a lead, with Chievo Verona still bottom of the table and without a win yet on the year.
Empoli picked up a huge 2-1 win over Udinese as both teams fight relegation. The hosts went up 2-0 after goals from Miha Zajc and Francesco Caputo bracketing halftime, and while Ignacio Pussetto pulled one back for Udinese, a missed penalty by Rodrigo de Paul loomed large.
Sporting KC did the necessary business early as they stormed Real Salt Lake 4-2 for a 5-3 aggregate victory, advancing Sporting KC to the Western Conference finals against Portland.
With a 1-1 aggregate scoreline from the first leg in Salt Lake City, Sporting KC came back home and scored twice in the opening 20 minutes to leave no doubt. Daniel Salloi picked up a double to lead the way, with Diego Rubio and Ilie Sanchez also on the scoresheet.
Rubio was the first to the back of the net, scoring 14 minutes in on an unselfish feed right in front of net by Felipe Gutierrez who probably could have scored himself. Next was Salloi five minutes later as Gutierrez sprung him free on net with a pinpoint through-ball.
After the break, Sebastian Saucedo and Damir Kreilach helped keep the game interesting as they pulled RSL back to within a goal each time, but Sanchez dispatched a Penenka penalty on 67 minutes and Salloi added the icing on the cake seven minutes deep into added time with a great goal after stealing a Brooks Lennon back-pass and touching expertly past Nick Rimando to give him an open net.
The game featured 35 combined shots between both teams, with 14 of those on target. Sporting KC will now take on Portland in the Western Conference finals after the Timbers advanced past Cascadia rivals Seattle on penalties back on Friday.