The New York Red Bulls must watch the MLS Cup Final from home once again after failing to overcome their 3-0 deficit in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta United FC.
Despite a valiant effort mustered by the home side, Atlanta United held firm to their advantage. The Five Stripes head to MLS Cup after a gutsy performance. Commited to defense first, Atlanta United held the Red Bulls in the 1-0 win.
Red Bulls fail to muster offense, fall to Atlanta United in Conference Final
Needing a goal early, the Red Bulls came out with energy but lacking precision. The Five Stripes happily ceded possession allowing the Red Bulls control of the middle of the field. The visitors kept the doors closed to the home side. The Red Bulls continued to attempt to find runners in the box with balls chipped in. Despite the lack of success in their efforts, the Red Bulls held firm to the plan and managed only one shot on target through the first 30 minutes.
Heading into halftime scoreless, the match conjured images of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal match against Chivas de Guadalajara. The Red Bulls lacked ideas and imagination. They failed to unlock the bunkering opponent. Atlanta United remained compact, and frustrated the Red Bulls through any means necessary.
The Red Bulls found more success in the second half keeping the ball on the ground and passing to feet. Atlanta United hung on for dear life at points as the Red Bulls sent wave after wave towards the goal. Despite their success in buildup, they remained anemic in attack. The added possession and danger did not create more shots on target.
In the 79th minute, the Red Bulls pulled a goal back through Aaron Long. However, upon Video Review, the goal was reversed and Long was adjudged to have fouled Brad Guzan.
Tim Parker pulled a goal back in the 90th minute on a corner kick. Daniel Royer headed the ball towards goal, and Parker put the ball in the net.
The 2018 New York Red Bulls exit the playoffs, but should be proud of their season. The ultimate prize eludes them yet again, but the future remains ever bright.
Man of the match
No Red Bull player stood out on the night. Purposeless possession led to a lack of firepower and ultimately the Red Bulls playoff exit. A long offseason awaits and the promise of next year is the consolation.
Photo by Steve Hamlin