Atlanta United

New York Red Bulls

10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

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Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

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Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Almiron’s injury short-circuits impressive Premier League start

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Only the most myopic of MLS fans expected Miguel Almiron to head from Atlanta United to the Premier League and create with the same sort of prolificacy he did for the Five Stripes.

[ MORE: Fastest goal in PL history ]

But despite his lack of goals and assists for Newcastle United, there is no doubt that Almiron has been a game-changer for a club which could defend with anyone but lacked the electricity to attack Premier League defenses.

“He was massive for us from day one,” Benitez said. “He was giving everybody a lift with his pace, work rate, and his assists.”

Almiron, 25, scored 22 goals and added 21 assists in two seasons with Atlanta, but had yet to find the back of the goal or score a direct assist in 763 minutes with the Magpies when he suffered a presumed season-ending hamstring injury over the weekend.

But he’s also been the proverbial straw that stirs the drink for Newcastle, who has 41 points on the season.

Their record before Almiron? 6W-6D-13L

Since? 5W-2D-3L

Like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Brendan Rodgers‘ tenures as managers of their new Premier League clubs, we should be careful to measure those numbers against weaker schedules, but throwing in Atlanta’s massive struggles post-Almiron makes for an easy if over-simplified line to draw.

Benitez verbalized what we’ve all seen: Newcastle’s best attacker prior to Almiron’s arrival was Salomon Rondon and the big Venezuelan has been more productive, and Ayoze Perez has been freed up to do what he does best as a creator.

“We signed Almiron, then Rondon was playing better, and Ayoze was playing better. Why? Because Almiron can run in behind, provide assists, and then Rondon has more time. Ayoze is the same, too.”

How will Newcastle fare without him, presumably the rest of the way? Fortunately, it’s doesn’t matter too much. Brighton, Liverpool, and Wolves will be pleased to face the Magpies without Almiron, and Benitez may go into a shell against two of the three.

Tenacious 2-1 Dallas victory at Atlanta deepens Frank de Boer’s woes

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Jesus Ferreira scored just six minutes into the match and that was enough to top a disjointed and sputtering Atlanta United side 2-1 at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Atlanta held nearly 70% possession and outshot Dallas 16-6, but the final product was far from polished yet again, and they were unable to find a breakthrough at the venue they devoured opponents in just last season. The hosts connected on just one of 18 attempted crosses and created nine chances but only one labeled as a big chance by Opta statistics.

On the other end, Dallas picked its spots to perfection, connecting on five of its seven shots, the first of which provided the key moment of the match. Michael Barrios stole the ball near midfield and broke two-on-two, beating Brek Shea with his dribble before feeding a perfect ball to Jesus Ferreira at the far post for the finish.

FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez was big the rest of the way, making a big save in the 79th minute to deny Josef Martinez to keep him off the scoresheet yet this season, up to over 400 minutes of scoreless play. Again he denied Martinez in the 82nd minute off a set-piece as he dove down to stop a shot at the near post. Overall, Gonzalez made seven saves to preserve the clean sheet.

The visitors put the game away in the 84th minute on the break as Atlanta had committed the team forward to find an equalizer. Michael Barrios broke on a turnover and received the ball deep in the attacking half, pausing for a moment before finding substitute Bryan Acosta who was streaking down the middle. Acosta had beaten Leandro Gonzalez Pirez on the counter, and with one touch he poked the ball past Brad Guzan to seal the victory.

Martinez had a chance moments later to make things interesting late and give Atlanta a chance, but completely botched the opportunity after a wonderful touch got him behind the Dallas defense in the 89th minute. That miss was a perfect encapsulation of Atlanta’s start to the 2019 season, a chance that would have unquestionably found the back of the net had Martinez been in last year’s form.

Atlanta gained a consolation at the death as VAR caught a tackle by Carlos Gruezo on Brek Shea at the edge of the area in the 76th minute. That finally saw Martinez put the ball in the back of the net for his first goal of the MLS season, but it only served to compound his earlier miss that would have brought Atlanta back into the match with time to spare.

The loss leaves Atlanta in 10th in the Eastern Conference with just five points thus far. They are without a win at home in three tries this season in MLS play, a place they dropped just 14 points all season last year. It is just the fourth home loss at Mercedes Benz Stadium in club history, and increases pressure on Frank De Boer who has only won a single game through his opening six league fixtures in charge of the defending champions.

MLS wrap: Three Things We Learned

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A busy day of Major League Soccer action saw comebacks, golazos, howlers and more. Here’s what we learned.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Soccer is Alive and Well in Minnesota

It’s a brand-new stadium of course, but a full house of almost 20,000 rowdy and pumped-up Minnesota United fans packed into Allianz Field to watch their team play New York City FC to a thrilling 3-3 draw. The game had a little bit of everything, with goals from Designated Player striker Angelo Rodriguez and Osvaldo Alonso (of all people) for Minnesota United, along with a howler of an own goal by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

And yet, against the odds, NYCFC proved that it can fight back and picked up a much-needed point on the road. For a team that’s struggled to score this season and find someone to replace outgoing captain David Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored his first two goals of the season, the second of which tied the game at 3-3 in the second half.

Regardless of the result, fans certainly got their money’s worth from attending, and there should be many exciting matches moving forward.

Barco Finally Shines for Atlanta

There was much hoopla and excitement surrounding Ezequiel Barco’s multi-million dollar transfer signing in 2018, but the Argentine youngster failed to back it up on the field.

After a year beset by injuries, poor form, and the standard time needed to adapt to a new culture, Barco may be ready for his chance to step into the spotlight. Barco’s brace, off the bench no less, helped Atlanta United on Saturday secure its first win of the season, in a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Tito Villalba set up both goals with marauding runs down the left wing, as Barco stabbed home the first shot and then curled home a beauty for his third goal of the season and his team’s second of the game.

Yes, it came against the now last-place New England Revolution, which continues to struggle mightily under Brad Friedel. But maybe this is a sign of things to come for Atlanta, which has also struggled this season and just won its first game, seven weeks into the season, after winning the title in December.

The Sounders Are Your MLS Cup Frontrunners (as of today)

Yes, I know, Los Angeles FC hasn’t lost a game all season and is on fire early this season. But no team is as deep in the attacking spaces of the field as the Seattle Sounders.

Who would have expected the Dancing Bear, Will Bruin, to score a brace as the Sounders won a thrilling 3-2 match over Toronto FC at CenturyLink Field. With the likes of Raul Ruidiaz, Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris, it was the combination of Brad Smith and Will Bruin, two players who aren’t often in the spotlight, who helped the Sounders pick up three points and remain unbeaten this season. The Sounders are three points behind LAFC but have a game in hand.

Why do I think they’re favorites to win the title? Vela could miss a month or more of action at the 2019 Gold Cup, and it’s unclear how anyone on LAFC’s bench can replace his productivity. Meanwhile, if Jordan Morris is away playing for the U.S., Bruin can step right in and keep scoring.

While the Smith-to-Bruin combination was fun to watch, there’s none better in MLS right now than that of Alejandro Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore. The two Designated Players are somehow already on the same wavelength and Pozuelo played two terrific passes that Altidore finished on Saturday. Expect many more goals between those two the rest of the season.

Playmaker Gressel, Atlanta at contract impasse

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Scouts ears perked, perhaps on both sides of the Atlantic, at the idea that Julian Gressel and Atlanta United are at a contract impasse.

Neither United nor Gressel, 24, would comment on the news to Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Doug Roberson.

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The Providence product had Regionalliga experience when he arrived in college from Germany, and was selected eighth overall in the MLS SuperDraft after an exceptional career with the Friars.

Gressel collected 14 of his 25 career assists in the last season’s run to the MLS Cup, and is the fourth-fastest player to hit the 25-assist milestone according to the report.

He occupies an international roster spot but that should be temporary as Gressel married his longtime American girlfriend in December. He has a contract option after this season and would be welcome on almost any roster for more than the reported $110,000 he makes now, but Atlanta does have a lot of mouths to feed.

And as Germany sees with Tyler Adams, plenty of good young players are being nurtured here in MLS. It would not be a surprise if 2.Bundesliga or Bundesliga clubs might want to take a swing with a developed German playmaker.