Throughout all of the 2018 Major League Soccer season, it appeared that the Eastern Conference title would come down to two teams. It turns out, those feelings were correct. The New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United will battle for a place in the MLS Cup final.
Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls: Eastern Conference final leg 1 preview
The first leg of the two-match series will take place on Sunday (11/25) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Georgia, with kickoff set for 5PM local time. The sides met twice during the regular season with New York securing two wins, in a 3-1 result in May at Atlanta before a 2-0 home victory in September.
The Red Bulls were able to overturn a first-leg loss versus Columbus in their conference semifinal, earning a 3-0 home win in the decisive game.
Atlanta enters after cruising to a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory against New York City FC, featuring a 3-1 scoreline in their last match.
This is a match-up that Atlanta manager Tata Martino has yet to completely figure out. His side was unable to defeat the Red Bulls in four attempts (0-3-1). The key will be creating space for Josef Martínez and Miguel Almirón in the final third. Both are extremely talented players who have been superb during this campaign. The two attackers combined for 43 league goals in 2018.
For Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas, the focus will again be on using a high-press system to force United into making crucial mistakes. Goalkeeper Luis Robles has been sharp in the past few games, and the squad will look to set up scoring chances for striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.
The teams who were responsible for two of the three best overall MLS seasons in history meet across two legs. Ultimately, serious entertainment and an opportunity for a league title are on the horizon for all involved.
Projected Starting XI:
Atlanta United (3-5-2): Guzan; Robinson, Parkhurst, Pirez; Escobar, Nagbe, Remedi, Gressel, Garza; Martínez, Almirón
New York Red Bulls (4-2-3-1): Robles; Murillo, Parker, Long, Lawrence; Adams, Davis; Muyl, Kaku, Royer; Wright-Phillips
Where to Watch: Sunday (Nov. 25) at 5:00PM EST on ESPN
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography