On Sunday, November 25, the New York Red Bulls will square off against Atlanta United, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in leg one of the Eastern Conference Championship.
The Red Bulls have fared well against Atlanta United this season, having defeated them in Atlanta, and at Red Bull Arena during the regular season.
Even with that success, the team is going in with the mindset that they shouldn’t be deemed automatic favorites, because past victories don’t really matter at this point.
“No, I don’t see us as favorites at all actually,” Sean Davis said. “It’s the playoffs, we know how talented Atlanta is, they are a fantastic group and I think at this point we just have to turn the page and reset. I think that is the mentality that we’ve had throughout training these last couple of weeks and I think that is something we have to stick to.”
Captain Luis Robles, spoke with reporters after training on Tuesday and also touched on how the regular season is much different than the postseason, and because New York have not lost a game against Atlanta in the series’ short history, Atlanta will be looking to avenge those losses.
“It’s the playoffs so the context surrounding it is so different,” Robles said. “When you look at the other two matchups, it’s another game in the season. Of course, there is going to be a buildup to it but not like the playoffs. If there is any sort of dynamic that those previous matchups can bring into this, it’s that they want to avenge those losses. That they want to right the ship in the sense that they want to get rid of that goose egg and that only builds more pressure for us.”
The Red Bulls return to the Conference Championship for the first time since 2015, and will be looking to finally be the club to hoist the MLS Cup trophy, which has evaded the club for 23 years, but according to Robles, this year feels different because of the youth that's on this roster who weren't on the 2015 team.
“I think the magnitude only increases because of the agony of this club’s history, 23 years, they haven’t won MLS Cup,” Robles said. “When you look at the last few years, we’ve been so close and we’ve had really good teams. Yet, this team is so dynamic, it’s so young, and when I take inventory of what we’ve been able to accomplish this year, there is a part of me that forgets that these guys weren’t around for 2014 and 2015. In a way, that sort of works to our advantage because there is an audacious nature to their approach as well as a fearlessness that I think is going to bode well for us.”
One of the keys to defeating Atlanta, will be stopping Miguel Almirón, who Davis says is probably their most important player.
“With Almirón he can make a difference at any second,” Davis said. “I think that is really important, and he is a guy that I think every team circles before they play. We know that, we are doing our due diligence with film and I don’t think it is too far off to say he is the most important player for them.”
The first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship can be seen on Sunday, November 25, on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 5 PM, and heard on New York Red Bulls Radio in both English and Spanish.