New York City FC’s matchup against Atlanta United in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a highly anticipated bout between two of the most offensively potent sides in the league, each trying to establish why they are the best in Eastern Conference. And it didn’t disappoint, finishing in an exciting 2-2 draw where both teams came out looking like winners.
The opening ten minutes saw both teams feel each other out, with neither NYCFC or Atlanta being able to assert their dominance over the other. It wasn’t until the 12th minute where the game would finally start to break open.
Jo Inge Berget received the ball on the left flank before making a nifty turn and touching it into the middle. From there, he gave ATL goalkeeper Brad Guzan his first test, firing a rocket from outside the 18-yard box. The ball would go directly towards the American goalkeeper, however, allowing Guzan to harmlessly touch it over the crossbar.
Jesus Medina would also flirt with goal in the 18th. The Paraguayan winger would launch a low left-footed strike towards the net from distance, which would also be parried by Guzan to keep the game level.
Despite them taking control, however, NYCFC would be faced with their first bout of adversity in the 29th minute. Following a stunning strike from distance by Atlanta’s Miguel Almiron, Sean Johnson pushed it away to his right. Unfortunately, Greg Garza was right there to net the rebound and give the Five Stripes a 1-0 lead.
Things would look even more gloomy for the Boys in Blue when Ismael Tajouri-Shradi twice pulled up with what looked to be a hamstring injury. David Villa would come on for the Libyan, sliding into the No. 9 position and allowing Medina to take the right flank.
It wouldn’t take long for El Guaje to put his stamp on the game.
In the 37th minute, an impressive counter-attack anchored by Medina, Villa, and Maxi Moralez would send Berget down the right flank and into space. Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst did his best to cut off Berget’s path. But following a mistimed slide on Berget’s brilliant last-minute touch, Parkhurst would bring down the Norweigan in the box, causing referee Allen Chapman to signal towards the penalty spot. Villa would step up to take the penalty and converted it to give him his 399th goal of his career and knot the game at 1-1.
Things would quickly look bleak, however, after a nice buildup by Atlanta led to what looked like Darlington Nagbe scoring a lovely side-netted goal from outside the box. But the goal would be nullified following a VAR review which determined that Josef Martinez interfered with goalkeeper Sean Johnson in an offside position, keeping the game tied at 1-1 going into the half.
Atlanta would make up for the lost goal 15 minutes after then restart when Chris McCann headed the ball towards the far post past a diving Johnson and into the net, giving Atlanta a definitive 2-1 advantage.
But the Blues wouldn’t be denied of a key road point.
In the 73rd minute, after another impressive impresive buildup, Villa held up the ball at the top of the box, desperately seeking space for either a shot on goal or an incisive pass. After being on the ball for what felt like an eternity, El Capitan finally decided to lay it off behind for an unmarked Alex Ring who who launched a thundering strike towards the goal from about 25 yards out. The shot flew past Guzan, caromed off the the crossbar, and crossed the line giving the Ringmaster his first-ever MLS goal and perhaps goal of the week. The golazo once again leveled the game at 2-2.
Both teams would press high looking for a winning goal in the late minutes, but it wasn’t meant to be after Allen Chapman blew the final whistle after three minutes of added time, giving both teams a share of the spoils in an exciting 2-2 draw.
Next up: NYCFC makes their way to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Timbers on April 22 at 6:00 PM EST.