Let’s VAR: Red Bulls
by Jarrett Smith Ah the New York Red Bulls. Always a fun game for Atlanta United fans. Maybe fun isn’t the right word but there is no other way to start this weird-ass tournament.
So before everyone gets the violent flashbacks that come with this rivalry, lets look back at what was. This is Video Assistant Reminiscing.
The Result: 3-3 draw at The Blank Tank.
How we got there?: This game is always a hammer fight in a dark closet but this time someone set a wombat loose in the closet with them. Atlanta got an early lead thanks to Justin Meram, then gave up two goals to New York in the middle of the game. Josef Martinez then earned and converted a PK with 11 minutes left, hit the header of the year in stoppage time to give Atlanta an edge and then Bradley Wright Phillips scored in the 3rd minute of stoppage time to steal a draw. Bonus points to Jeff Larentowicz for the red card as time to I’ve this a bit more insanity.
How MLS was this game?: Very. On a scale of 1 to ‘Galaxy Fighting the Earthquakes around the mascot’ it’s in the ‘fantastic contribution to a great rivalry’. There were six goals and they were mostly fun. In fact, let’s take look at them and judge them unfairly.
Ah Justin Meram. We had a wonderful honeymoon while you rebuilt your career here. And such a pretty finish too after a STUPID pretty ball from Pity Martinez. Bonus points for slotting on the short side too. 4/5
No good thing lasts forever. A bad clearance and some weird touches leads to a nice finish from the Red Bulls. You just can’t give cheap chances up to that organization. 3/5
So this is possibly blasphemy but this is one of those games where you can go back and see Parky go from ‘edge of the cliff’ to ‘probably over the edge for 90 minutes at a time’ It’s a pretty ball but the read isn’t great and then it’s just a cross and finish. 3/5
So I’m cheating and just putting the penalty here. Ambrose put every inch of his spine into that header. Josef gets on the right side of the defender and puts the ref in a tight spot which is something Atlanta has done so damn well since they’ve existed. Play quick and force the ref to make a decision. The PK isn’t here but it’s a stutter step without the big hop. Just blasted into the strikers left corner. I’m not rating PKs that aren’t panenkas. I have standards.
This is the one you probably remember from this game because HOLY GOD JOSEF. It’s a lofted cross and Josef guides it across the face of goal and loops it off the underside of the crossbar where it hits the ground and kicks out which can deceive you into thinking you dodged a bullet if it happened to you, but nope. You’re dead. You just don’t know it yet. 5/5
Or THIS is the one you remember. Moments later and just the most annoying slow bouncing cross skips across all lanes of 75/85 and into the path of BWP who wraps up the scoring. It’s a really composed finish but it’s never comfortable to watch. So watch it. 3/5
What’s the same: Both Atlanta and New York have high emotions about this series. It’s got the edge that all rivalries long for, and even though Atlanta have never taken all 3 points from New York in the regular season, they still gutted the Red Bulls in the playoffs to end New York’s best season short of the MLS Cup Final.
Red Bulls will most likely continue to Red Bulls as they play their high press and physical style, with lots of set piece activity and ‘put it into the blender and get some dark magic’ moments. That said, allow me to contradict all of that and say they might set the line of confrontation not as high up the field (think Eastern Conference Finals). Also Daniel Royer is still there and he’s haunted Atlanta the way Tito haunted Columbus.
What’s different?: Buddy, a good amount is different with these rosters. Atlanta lost a slew of players including Darlington Nagbe, Julian Gressel, Tito Villalba and Michael Parkhurst. There are new players filling the gaps though and really the first full offseason where Frank de Boer got to see what he had in game action, then make moves to adjust to that.
New York lost legends with Bradley Wright Phillips, Luis Robles and Kemar Lawrence leaving. The Red Bulls didn’t exactly make any splashes to replace those guys either, so they’ll be leaning on young players and hoping Kaku finally hits his stride in MLS.
What should you expect?: More hammer fights in a closet. These teams always end up playing physical games that can play to New York’s advantage if the whistle is swallowed. Atlanta has been ahead in more than a few of the matches but haven’t closed things down against Red Bulls. In the humid Florida summer, can everyone keep their mental strength up? Hell, can they keep their physical strength up. Unless this devolves into the Kumite you’re leaning Atlanta with just the wealth of raw talent combined with New York having to break in a lot of young talent.