Atlanta United secures a draw with NYCFC

Atlanta forward Giorgios Giakoumakis chases NYCFC defender Thiago Martins in Saturday’s game at Yankee Stadium. Before the half, Giakoumakis was the recipient of a yellow card that many viewers thought was an unfair call. // Photo courtesy of Atlanta United

After a 1-0 home-field win over the New York Red Bulls, Atlanta United traveled to Yankee Stadium in New York City with hopes of making it two wins in two weeks over the New York teams. On Saturday, April 8, Atlanta picked up a 1-1 draw against New York City Football Club (NYCFC), highlighted by forward Giorgios Giakoumakis’ goal. Prior to the scoring, midfielder Frano Ibarra was sent off the pitch thanks to a brash challenge. The main story after the game is the loss of goalkeeper Brad Guzan due to a tear in his medial collateral ligament (MCL). 

Manager Gonzalo Pineda sent out the exact same starting 11 that beat the New York Red Bulls with hopes of repeating the result against NYCFC. 

The experience of this game, for both player and viewer, was very different from Atlanta’s other New York game. Yankee Stadium has one of the more unique pitches in MLS, with the field being significantly smaller than other stadiums. On top of the smaller field, the broadcast for the game used a camera angle close to the field, making it difficult for the viewer to understand the travel of the ball.

Atlanta United started the match off well with two shots in the first three minutes from corners. Outside of the two early shots off of set pieces, Atlanta failed to create much of a threat on the NYCFC net. NYCFC were the more aggressive team, though most of their shots were taken from outside of the 18-yard box. Just before the half, Giakoumakis was given a questionable yellow card for a challenge that he pulled out of the game. In the 62nd minute, Ibarra was sent off for a late challenge with his studs. 

Despite being cut down to 10 men, Atlanta looked more threatening than before. The Five Stripes eventually broke through in the 70th minute with a corner taken by midfielder Thiago Almada and headed into the goal by Giakoumakis. The assist for Giakoumakis’ goal — his third in three starts — was Almada’s fifth of the season, making him the lead in the MLS. However, NYCFC equalized almost immediately, and the game finished 1-1 to keep Atlanta in third place in the east.

One of the major talking points among fans after Saturday’s game was the refereeing from official Drew Fischer. Throughout the game, Fischer was inconsistent with the way that he gave out cards and fouls. Giakoumakis was given a questionable yellow card for tapping a defender’s foot. In terms of inconsistencies, despite NYCFC continuously diving into Guzan, Fischer did not give any cards, yet alone a foul, to NYCFC. 

A few days after the match, Guzan was reported to have torn his MCL and will be out for 10 to 12 weeks. His absence, expected to last for 14 games, will be felt  by Atlanta due to the leadership that he provides both on the field and in the locker room. 

Atlanta United will take on Toronto FC on Saturday, April 15 on the continued road journey in the northeast, looking to keep their good run of form after losing a key member of the squad.