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Atlanta United sits atop Forbes’ list of most valuable MLS franchises

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Atlanta United came up just short of the Supporters’ Shield, but it’s off-the-field success is No. 1 with a bullet.

Giving high marks to attendance and merchandise sales, Forbes places the Five Stripes atop its list of the most valuable franchises in Major League Soccer.

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United sits first, with a valuation of $330 million. Both Atlanta and the second place Galaxy have valuations ahead of the two-least valuable teams combined (Columbus and Colorado). And the Five Stripes are worth twice the individual values of those teams and Vancouver. Full list here, from Forbes.com:

“Last season, average home-game attendance was 48,200, and this year the team is drawing over 50,000 fans per game. In just two seasons Atlanta has already laid claim to the league’s eight best-attended games ever, and nine of the top eleven.”

The margins are fine, relatively speaking, with Atlanta’s advantage over second place LA Galaxy by $10 million. Seattle is third at $310m, with newcomers LAFC at $305m, and Toronto FC at $290m.

2018 MLS awards: Tata wins Coach, Zlatan wins Goal

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Major League Soccer announced a number of its regular season awards on Tuesday, and a pair of the league’s international stars were at the forefront of the achievements.

Outgoing Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino won Coach of the Year, while LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic won the league’s Goal of the Year award for his incredible long-distance strike against rivals LAFC back in late March.

Martino, in his second year in charge as Atlanta United’s first and only manager in franchise history, came just a point from securing the team’s first Supporters’ Shield in just its second year of existence. The club just won its first playoff series in club history as well, beating NYFC over two legs to reach the Eastern Conference finals. The Argentine has announced he will depart the club at the end of the season, with reports pinning him to a job with the Mexican national team.

LAFC manager Bob Bradley finished second in the Coach of the Year award, having led the first-year club to a third-place finish in the Western Conference and a playoff spot before being dumped by Real Salt Lake in the knockout round.

Ibrahimovic won Goal of the Year with his audacious half-volleyed strike from almost 40 yards out that chipped LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller and leveled the score. It was Ibrahimovic’s first MLS goal after moving to the Galaxy in the offseason from Manchester United. He scored again that match, a stoppage-time winner in the brand new derby.

Other awards were handed out during the hour-long awards ceremony on Periscope, including the Save of the Year, which went to Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei for ranging across his net to stop Colorado Rapids forward Shkelzen Gashi.

Skill Play of the Year went to Portland’s Samuel Armenteros for an incredible dink past Colorado defender Danny Wilson just before scoring the game’s first goal. The Celebration of the Year went to Bradley Wright-Phillips for the aftermath of his 100th MLS goal where he proceeded to remove his jersey to reveal another underneath with the number 100.

Atlanta United advances after 3-1 win over NYCFC

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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.

MLS preview, leg 2: Top seeds RBNY, SKC have work to do

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Three more places are set to be booked in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs conference finals on Sunday. One home side leads, one trails and one enters the second leg on level footing…

[ MORE: Timbers top Sounders, in PKs, in epically insane 2nd leg ]

Sporting Kansas City (1*) vs. Real Salt Lake (1)

Conservative and defensive aren’t two descriptors typically, if ever, used to describe Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side, yet the first leg saw the Western Conference’s top seed set out to frustrate and stifle the six-seed on their home patch — at least in the first half, until Albert Rusnak scored his stunning goal from just about nothing in the 51st minute. Sporting responded brilliantly, though, never panicking and hardly showing RSL another sight of goal until the game’s final few frantic minutes.

It was Diego Rubio — super-sub for most of the season, save for a two-month stretch where he was the only option to start at center forward, and he produced a goal or assist per game — who bagged Sporting’s equalizer right on the hour mark, seconds after coming on. While some will surely be clamoring for the Chilean to start the second leg, it’s important to remember that game states drastically affect an attacking player’s quantity and quality of chances. For the vast majority of Khiry Shelton’s shift, Sporting resorted to uncharacteristically long balls out of the back. Once RSL went ahead, Vermes did the right (and obvious) thing in swapping the two.

In the second leg, Sporting will be the possession-dominant side on their home field, which will play perfectly into the hands feet of Shelton, whose hold-up play and tireless movement will pull defenders out of deeper positions, thus opening up half-spaces for Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi — the team’s two top scorers this season — in ways that Rubio just can’t. It’s vitally important that Sporting attack RSL through the center of the field and don’t fall into the trap and getting the ball wide and crossing it into the box more than 20 or 30 or — gasp — 40 times, as they’ve sometimes done in the past. Patience and persistence through the center will cause RSL problems they don’t want to deal with, and ultimately send Sporting through to the West finals.


Atlanta United (1*) vs. New York City FC (0)

Of the three higher-seeded sides hosting on Sunday, Atlanta United have the most straightforward path to victory: don’t lose at home, where they lost just twice all season and haven’t done so since dropping back-to-back games (against the no. 1 seeds from each conference) in May. There is no such thing as a lock in MLS, but this is as close as you’re going to find. [cue NYCFC winning 3-0 on Sunday]

Chances will be far more plentiful for both sides on Sunday, as opposed to the four combined shots on target (all by Atlanta, the visitors) on the postage-stamp field at Yankee Stadium.

The late-season return of Yangel Herrera from his season-ending long-term knee injury did wonders to strengthen NYCFC’s shoddy midfield down the stretch, but not even the 20-year-old Venezuelan destroyer (on loan from Manchester City) could grab hold of the first leg and coax the game in any particular direction, let alone one that was advantageous for his side. It’ll take a 10-out-of-10 performance from Herrera, and a couple of his teammates along the backline, to have any hopes of even slowing down Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba and Co.

Good luck.


New York Red Bulls (0) vs. Columbus Crew SC (1*)

The Supporters’ Shield-winning Red Bulls find themselves in a fairly precarious position heading into Sunday’s nightcap: trailing the side that conceded the second-fewest goals (24) away from home in the Eastern Conference and the fourth-fewest in the entire league.

The first leg saw yet another tally of just four shots between the two sides (split evenly this time) and only 14 combined efforts, period. The Red Bulls did everything they could have hoped to do ahead of kickoff, but were undone by a moment of pure magical and ingenuity from Federico Higuain, who just seems to do those things this time of year, every year.

Columbus is an interesting foil for New York, as their tendency to play the ball quickly and vertically often negates the Red Bulls’ relentless press. Like in the first leg, the midfield essentially turns into a pendulum shuttling back and forth constantly without ever really accomplishing anything for all the miles traversed. If the Red Bulls’ backline can play a little tighter to Columbus’s wingers and forward(s), making those long balls a tad tougher to see and play, that’s all the likes of Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, Daniel Royer and Alex Muyl will need to wreak havoc in Crew SC’s defensive half. That’s where the chances — and any likelihood of a comeback — will come from.

Atlanta earns big 1-0 road playoff win over NYCFC in first leg

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Atlanta United used a first-half goal – after another was wiped off – to earn a gritty first-leg win over NYCFC at Yankee Stadium on Sunday evening. Eric Remedi scored the game’s lone goal after Miguel Almiron had one negated on replay 17 minutes earlier. They would lock things up from there – without Almiron in the second half – keeping NYCFC without a shot on target all game.

The opening 15 minutes was incredibly chippy as both teams began with a physical brand of play. A plethora of fouls led to some heated attitudes and fed the choppy flow. NYCFC seemed to have the better attacking mindset in the opening few minutes, but it would be Atlanta that found the back of the net first, or so they thought.

It was a bit of a fluky goal as Almiron – back from his muscle injury – took a swipe at a cross, and he flubbed it, driving it straight into the ground. It popped high up into the air, and managed to chip Sean Johnson into the back of the net. They checked with the VAR crew after the strike, and offside was called earlier as the short corner was played, ruling the goal out.

They would atone, however, as it would be Remedi to earn the opener in the 37th minute. Off a corner, Josef Martínez delivered an absolutely blistering side-volley that Johnson was equal to. The rebound, however, was pushed to the far post where Remedi was waiting for the tap-in.

There were very few chances after the break, as Atlanta held NYCFC without a single shot on target the entire match, while Atlanta had just four of its own. Almiron came off at halftime, and the visitors looked to protect its away goal. NYCFC put together a few good offensive spells, but just couldn’t muster anything for David Villa who came close in a couple of moments but failed to produce a goal.

The win sends Atlanta back home in a great position, owning the lead and an away goal. The only time they played NYCFC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the regular season was back in April when the teams played to a 2-2 draw.