Atlanta United finally earned their first win over the New York Red Bulls, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Josef Martinez and Franco Escobar scored on either side of halftime, while Hector Villalba added a third in second-half-stoppage time, as Five Stripes grabbed a well-earned 3-0 victory in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The win gives Atlanta a strong advantage heading into the second leg of the series against the Supporters' Shield winners, which is set to take place at Red Bull Arena on Thursday.
After a closely-fought opening spell, Atlanta started to come into the game more as space opened up and were rewarded just after the half-hour mark. Jeff Larentowicz took advantage of the space afforded to him on the right to swing in a booming cross to the far post, which Martinez controlled with his chest and fired past Luis Robles.
The Red Bulls thought they had an equalizer from a well-worked set piece just after the restart, but after Video Review, referee Kevin Stott waved off Bradley Wright-Phillips' goal after determining that Alex Muyl had screened goalkeeper Brad Guzan while in an offside position.
Wright-Phillips' disallowed goal would loom large in the 71st minute when Atlanta grabbed their second. Miguel Almiron found Gressel streaking down the left side, and though Gressel's cutback rolled behind Martinez, it fell straight to Escobar to slam home past Robles.
Villalba hit the post in the final minute of second-half stoppage time, but would not be denied five minutes later when he slammed an unstoppable low finish from outside the box into the corner.
- 32' – ATL – Josef Martinez
- 71' – ATL – Franco Escobar
- 90+5' – ATL – Hector Villalba