It’s hard to beat Atlanta United.
It’s especially hard to do it in their house.
But tonight, with the Five Stripes closing in on the second-place spot in the Eastern Conference that NYCFC have held for much of the season only to lose their grip, it happened.
Thank you, Loons.
Our Boys in Blue don’t just get to hold on to that #2 seed with two games remaining; now that Atlanta no longer has any games in hand, they suddenly control their own destiny.
And it couldn’t have happened more sublimely.
The hosts somehow managed to slam two second-half goals into Minnesota’s net to take the lead despite going down a man on the hour. That should have been it. Done and dusted. But then, substitute Christian Ramirez did a thing just seconds from the end of regulation time:
Then, in the sixth minute of stoppage time, Kevin Molino totally flipped the fuck out:
WHAT IS THIS LIFE???
With Minnesota virtually eliminated from playoff contention in the Western Conference, NYCFC ends up being the key beneficiary of tonight’s last-gasp heroics. If Atlanta had held the lead, they would have supplanted New York City in second place due to a large advantage in goal differential. Even a draw would have left the league standings too close for comfort.
Instead, the Blues can guarantee themselves the #2 spot — and the first round playoff bye that comes with it — simply by taking four points from their final two games: away at New England and home to Columbus.
What are Atlanta’s final two fixtures, you ask?
On the road against the Red Bulls, who won their visit to Atlanta on opening day, and at home against Toronto, whom they played to a draw at BMO field in September.
In other words, NYCFC are undefeated in 2017 against their remaining opponents. Atlanta United are winless against theirs.
With this being my final night wearing the captain’s armband at Hudson River Blue, I can’t imagine a better goodbye gift.
You’re good people, Minnesota.