The New York Red Bulls pulled off a late comeback to beat Atlanta United 2-1 at home on Thursday night.
Despite being heavy favorites with their superior standing in the Eastern Conference and having home advantage, the Red Bulls were largely outplayed for well over an hour. Gerhard Struber’s men failed to press effectively and allowed the Five Stripes to control possession.
After a number of warning shots from the likes of Luiz Araujo and Ronaldo Cisneros, Atlanta United took the lead in the 75th minute, with Josef Martinez firing home a rebound after Emerson Hyndman saw a point-blank effort blocked. Incredibly, that was the Five Stripes’ first-ever goal at Red Bull Arena.
But it would take just 14 minutes for a familiar pattern to unfold, with Atlanta United undoing all their good work to leave with nothing. First, Caleb Wiley lunged in on Brazilian playmaker Luquinhas to concede a penalty, which Lewis Morgan easily dispatched. Then, in the final minute of normal time, Alex De John cheaply lost the ball to Serge Ngoma, allowing the 16-year-old to run free into the box and find the winning goal.
A stunning late comeback for the hosts, but another instance of Atlanta United pressing the self-destruct button.
Here are the full player ratings from Thursday’s dramatic encounter:
GK: Carlos Coronel – 8/10 – Made a couple of very important saves from Araujo and Cisneros.
RB: Tom Edwards – 5/10 – Did his job defensively but was a little sloppy with the ball.
CB: Aaron Long – 7/10 – Had a battle on his hands up against Araujo but gave as good as he got.
CB: Sean Nealis – 7/10 – Simple and effective with his defending and clean on the ball.
LB: John Tolkin – 8/10 – Got through a mountain of defensive work and still managed to offer plenty in attack.
CM: Frankie Amaya – 6/10 – Lots of energy but lacked sharpness on the ball.
CM: Christian Casseres Jr – 8/10 – A dynamic midfield display, driving the ball forward, biting into tackles, and covering every blade of grass.
RW: Cameron Harper – 3/10 – Completed just four passes and was unsuccessful with all three of his attempted dribbles in 57 minutes on the pitch.
CAM: Omir Fernandez – 4/10 – A passenger for large parts of the match.
LW: Lewis Morgan – 7/10 – A couple of bright moments but not up to his usual standards with the ball, although he maintained composure from the spot to equalize. Worked extremely hard out of possession.
ST: Patryk Klimala – 4/10 – Was isolated for large stretches and didn’t pressure Atlanta United enough when out of possession.
SUB: Tom Barlow (for Klimala, 57′) – 6/10 – Gave the Atlanta United defenders a much sterner test than Klimala managed.
SUB: Luquinhas (for Harper, 57′) – 8/10 – Added far more quality on the ball and won the penalty for RBNY to equalize.
SUB: Serge Ngoma (for Fernandez, 69′) – 9/10 – Completely changed the game. Atlanta couldn’t cope with his energy and directness, which was rewarded with a late winning goal. Some way to open your MLS account.
SUB: Steven Sserwadda (for Edwards, 78′) – 6/10 – Didn’t get too involved.
GK: Rocco Rios Novo – 6/10 – A very assured performance with the ball at his feet, completing 91% of his passes. Made a couple of saves and commanded his box well but was let down by his defense.
RWB: Aiden McFadden – 8/10 – Another solid performance from a player unexpectedly thrust into the MLS cauldron. Helped create the opening goal.
CB: George Campbell – 6/10 – Had a couple of nervous moments early on but settled into the game eventually.
CB: Alan Franco – 6/10 – Much-improved from Franco, who was far more calm and composed than we’ve seen recently. Would be harsh to blame him for the Red Bulls’ second with De John shying away from the ball.
CB: Alex De John – 3/10 – Did a solid job right until the end when he lost possession to allow RBNY their second goal. Unforgivable, really.
LWB: Caleb Wiley – 5/10 – Was a threat in the final third throughout and played a crucial part in the Martinez goal with his cross to McFadden. Spoiled all his good work with a terrible challenge on Luquinhas to concede a penalty.
CM: Matheus Rossetto – 7/10 – Helped Atlanta control the game with his precision passing. Always looking for the ball.
CM: Franco Ibarra – 7/10 – Never let RBNY settle, biting into tackles and chasing throughout. Strong with the ball, too, creating a couple of openings. Now suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
CM: Amar Sejdic – 7/10 – A solid performance but faded in the second half due to lack of match sharpness.
ST: Ronaldo Cisneros – 6/10 – Had a few bright moments and generally combined well with Araujo but was lagging when subbed out.
ST: Luiz Araujo – 9/10 – The best player on the field by a distance. Terrorized the RBNY defense with his pace and skill. On another day, the Brazilian would have had a couple of goals.
SUB: Josef Martinez (for Cisneros, 63′) – 7/10 – Scored just 13 minutes after coming on but didn’t manage much else.
SUB: Emerson Hyndman (for Sejdic, 73′) – 7/10 – Added energy and impetus to the Five Stripes. It was his shot that allowed Martinez to score the rebound.
SUB: Marcelino Moreno (for Ibarra, 90′) – N/A – Brought on too late.