Atlanta United comes out on top in Red Bull fight

Senior midfielder Thiago Almada takes a shot against New York midfielder Peter Stroud in a match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. // Photo courtesy Hyosub Shin Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta United is looking to bounce back from a resounding defeat at the hands of the Columbus Crew. Defender Miles Robinson, striker Giorgios Giakoumakis, midfielder Thiago Almada and winger Derrick Etienne Jr. all missed the game against Columbus due to getting international calls up from their respective national teams. Atlanta United did bounce back against the New York Red Bulls, collecting a hard-fought 1-0 win with Giakoumakis getting his second goal of the season. The most recent win against the Red Bulls propelled Atlanta United to second place in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind FC Cincinnati.

Robinson, Giakoumakis, Almada and Etienne all started the match after returning from international duty, bringing some quality that Atlanta United lacked against the Columbus Crew. The quartet of Giakoumakis, Almada, Etienne and Luiz Araújo got their anticipated first start together with the attack being dangerous throughout the game. 

Atlanta started the game on the front foot, and in the seventh minute, breached the Red Bulls defense. Almada took a shot from outside the box which the Red Bulls goalkeeper spilled, after which Giakoumakis was the fastest to react to the loose ball in the box, tapping it in to give Atlanta United a 1-0 lead. After the goal, a string of constant fouls took away all momentum from the game. In total, the game had six yellow shown to New York and four to Atlanta. The game as a whole was very disruptive, with Giakoumakis stating that the physicality of it was reminiscent of his time in Scotland with Celtic. The game ended 1-0 Atlanta United with both teams capable of creating chances but neither able to put them away. The win was the first against the Red Bulls in Atlanta United history.

The defensive unit of Atlanta stood out with such a physical game being played. Robinson has returned to form since returning from his Achilles injury as arguably the best defender in Major League Soccer. Midfielder Franco Ibarra was all over the pitch against the Red Bulls, putting out fires before they even started and is truly living up to his “Bulldog” nickname. Finally, Atlanta’s very own defender Caleb Wiley has burst onto the scene, and despite not getting a goal or assist against the Red Bulls, he was a constant threat on the left flank and is cementing himself as one of the best young fullbacks in the world. Both Robinson and Wiley’s performances could have piqued the interest of some European clubs, with Robinson likely to cross the Atlantic if his immense performances continue. Overall, the performance by Atlanta United was about getting back to the form they showed prior to the Columbus Crew match. 

“Back to who we are. That was the theme of the week. The players showed who they are today,” said team manager Gonzalo Pineda in a post-match press conference. 

“We, Atlanta, need to earn the respect from the league and from the referees … [we] will have to win more trophies to earn the respect that we deserve,” Pineda said. 

Atlanta United are looking to continue their winning ways in their upcoming match at Yankee Stadium against New York City Football Club on Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.