Preview: New York Red Bulls Square off Against Atlanta United to Start MLS is Back Tournament

MLS is back and so are the New York Red Bulls as they look to get a positive result in the first game of Group E against Atlanta United.  After four long months without the Metro, Chris Armas’ side will need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to pick up a result against Atlanta, who won their first two games of the season. However, if the first few games of the MLS tournament are any indication, there will be plenty of scrappy moments and it will be difficult for either side to be at their very best

The Red Bulls come into this game having gained two defenders since their last game against Real Salt Lake.  Both Mandela Egbo and Jason Pendant signed from Europe and they will no doubt play a big role in the group stages.  Pendant specifically, who came over from Sochaux in Ligue 2 in France, will most likely start at left-back against Atlanta in favor of rookie Patrick Seagrist. Another defensive piece coming into the side is Aaron Long, who comes back into the team after recovering from a hamstring injury he picked up early in the year.  This is a big positive for the Red Bulls who will have to be strong defensively going up against the likes of Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martínez. 

Offensively, the Red Bulls will most likely look unchanged for Saturday, with the front four of Florian Valot, Kaku, Daniel Royer, and Brian White all fit and ready to go.  Armas will be hoping to see Valot shine just as he did in the first two games of the season, after being out for the whole of last season due to another anterior cruciate ligament injury. Valot recorded two assists in the Red Bulls home opener against Cincinnati and has added some flair to the right side of the midfield.

On the other side, Atlanta United come into this game having won their first two games this year against Nashville and Cincinnati.  While they’ve started off 2020 in a positive way, the loss of Josef Martínez due to a ACL tear in the season opener has definitely hurt their attack. Nevertheless, Atlanta still pose a massive threat with Pity Martínez and Ezequiel Barco leading the line. Barco has already recorded two goals and an assist, and with the way Atlanta likes to swing the ball to their wingers frequently, he will no doubt be the main threat,

Both teams have their flaws and this will be a game where both of these teams will have to try and grind out the result. The New York Red Bulls will have to shape up defensively, but with Long and the signings of Pendant and Egbo coming into the defense, they will have more pieces that can help them against Atlanta’s dangerous attack.

Match Information

Date: Saturday, July 11, 2020

Kick-off: 20:00 (EST) | 02:00 (CEST)

Venue: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Referee: Alan Chapman

Broadcasting: FOX Network (United States), Free Sports (United Kingdom), The Sports Network 2 (Canada)

Head-to-Head

09.30.18: New York Red Bulls 2-0 Atlanta United

11.25.18: Atlanta United 3-0 New York Red Bulls

11.30.18: New York Red Bulls 1-0 Atlanta United

05.19.19: New York Red Bulls 1-0 Atlanta United

07.07.19: Atlanta United 3-3 New York Red Bulls

Current Form

Atlanta United

FC Motagua 1-1 (A) | FC Motagua 3-0 (H) | Nashville 1-2 (A) | Cincinnati 2-1 (H) | Club América 3-0 (A)

New York Red Bulls

Houston Dynamo 1-1 (N) | Columbus Crew 1-1 (N) | Sporting Kansas City 2-1 (Win) (N) | Cincinnati 3-2 (H) | Real Salt Lake 1-1 (A)

Team News

Atlanta United

Injured: Josef Martínez (anterior cruciate ligament)

New York Red Bulls

N/A

Predicted Line-ups

Atlanta United

Guzan – Robinson, Meza, Lennon – Escobar, Hyndman, Remedi, Walkes – Barco, Jahn, P. Martínez. (3-4-3)

New York Red Bulls

Jensen – Duncan, Parker, Long, Pendant – Cásseres, Davis – Valot, Kaku – Royer, White. (4-2-2-2)

Press Conference

“It’s a perfect start for us, we know how intense this game is going to be, we know them very well. They know us very well, so there’s not going to be any surprises. It’s just going to feel like we’re going to get back into things right away. It’s going to be a fast start to this tournament. I think it’s a good way to set us up on the right foot for the rest of this tournament if we do well.”

Aaron Long on starting the MLS is Back Tournament against Atlanta United. [New York Red Bulls]

The system is strong, the demands of how Frank [de Boer] has them play. They can use the ball, they also can counter-press and play against the ball; they’re not easy to break down, and they can do different things. We’ve seen the way they play three in the back, they play like a 3-4-2-1, with [Ezequiel] Barco and Pity [Martínez] in the 10s. They can play those guys up top, like a 5-3-2. We’ve seen they can play four in the back, they drop a six, and it looks like five in the back.

Chris Armas on the tactical challenged imposed by Atlanta United. [New York Red Bulls]

Score Prediction

Atlanta United 2-2 New York Red Bulls

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