In one of the marquee matchups of the MLS season, the New York Red Bulls won the battle, 3-1 on Sunday night in Atlanta.
“A difficult game, an emotional game, a fast game," Head Coach Jesse Marsch said. "I advertised it to our team before the game as a heavyweight fight and that there were going to be punches thrown. Both sides. We had to be prepared to take punches at times, but we had to be prepared that when we had chances to really deliver some punches, some knockouts, that we were ready."
After an early goal from Atlanta United FC, the Red Bulls battled back, earning and converting a penalty kick minutes before halftime.
“The discussion at halftime was that it was a good game," Marsch said. "In a lot of ways, they were trying to get [Miguel] Almirón away from Tyler Adams, so we were trying to talk about what kind of rotations we would want to make, how we would want to step to deal with certain moments."
The second half saw Bradley Wright-Phillips pick up a brace, scoring both goals off his head, in front of 45,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"Once we won the ball, we were going for the final ball too much," Marsch said. "Once we had a guy run and their line would back up and then we would have moments to put the second pass that would lead to the third and the fourth pass, and that was how we should think about being dangerous. Ultimately, we wound up getting the two goals in that manner. I thought the adjustments made at half were good and I thought overall we had good performances all across. A bunch of guys emptying the tank. Very clear on what their roles were and the tactics and the gameplan."
The gameplan was typical Red Bull soccer: Press and press hard.
"If you sit back and watch these teams, you get punished," Wright-Phillips said. "I think the best way to approach it is get in their face. It doesn’t always work, but it has today.”
BWP recorded his 16th career brace and 20th career multi-goal performance. Wright-Phillips moved into a tie with Robbie Keane for fourth all-time in league history with 20 multi-goal league games.
“I mean he is amazing," Daniel Royer, who converted the first half penalty kick, said of Wright-Phillips. "We don’t have to discuss his qualities. It’s crazy this guy can score at any time. Even though he said he is not as good with his head, that ship left already because he is really good with his head. He can score at any time, and he is so important.”
With the first 45 minutes going back and forth, the second half adjustments proved to be just what the Red Bulls needed.
"Very good execution and some really good play from our team," the head coach said.