(Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan making one of his many saves on Saturday afternoon – USA Today Sports)
New York City Football Club tied Atlanta United FC, 1-1, on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, as Atanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan put on a show.
Guzan made nine spectacular saves, with most of them coming in the second half to earn Atlanta a point and keep them in first place in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta now has 30 points with a 9-3-3 record, while NYCFC is in second place with 28 points and a record of 8-4-3.
NYCFC dominated from the start, and Guzan’s first big save came in the 27th minute on a shot from Maxi Moralez, who tried to get around the goalkeeper, but he was on it.
A minute later, David Villa was in alone and Guzan punched the ball away as Villa dribbled into the box.
The first half was scoreless, but it didn’t take long for Atlanta to strike in the second.
Julian Gressel came down the right side and fired a cross into the box, where Josef Martinez headed it off the turf and in to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead in the 48th minute.
Soon after, NYCFC started a barrage that would last for the final 40 minutes of the game.
In the 54th minute, Villa rang one off the right post.
In the 60th, Moralez and Sweat set up Villa with a point-blank chance, and Guzan made a big save.
In the 67th minute, NYCFC earned a corner which was taken by Moralez and he got it to Villa who headed it, but Guzan once again swatted it away.
A minute later, Anton Tinnerholm got a shot off from the right side, and kept it low, and Guzan kicked it away.
By this point, the crowd of 25,628 was buzzing with every shot from the home side.
In the 72nd minute, Villa found an opening on the left side and just missed the top left corner of the net.
Two minutes later, Jonathan Lewis found Villa in the center of the box, and he fired another rocket that Guzan caught.
In the 76th, Lewis had a chance of his own, as he flipped it over Guzan, but it went over the crossbar.
NYCFC was awarded a corner kick in the 77th minute, which Moralez took once again, and the kick went to Villa, who headed it towards the right corner of the net and a diving Alexander Callens, who headed it in to tie the game at 1 and send the crowd into a frenzy.
Callens said of his goal, “Yes, that’s football. Honestly, yea I’m a little happy for the goal but I think this draw has a bad taste to it because I think we had several opportunities throughout the game. I think it’s the game with most chances at goal that we’ve had but we couldn’t score the second one. However, the most important thing is to not lose at home.”
NYCFC kept it coming in the final minutes, as Guzan made a big save in the 81st minute and Moralez rang one off the left post in the 93rd minute.
NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira said of having a clear opportunity for three points in today’s match and only coming out with one, “Yeah, we were unlucky. There’s no doubt about it. I think Guzan was fantastic – I think he was the man of the match. But overall when we look at the first half and the second half, I think that was what I was expecting from the players. I think we had a solid game, we had a professional game where we respected our game plan and we concentrated on not allowing them to find the space. But when we did it, we got punished right away. We knew how good they were but if I didn’t look at the result, just looking at the performance, I couldn’t ask much more from my team.”
Vieira said of possibly wanting more from today’s result, “No, I think you just have to look at games where you really don’t play well and we manage to win the games. I think that is the balance during the season. You always have these types of games but for me, this game is more of a win than anything else. Because yeah, the result didn’t go in our way, but the way that we played, the number of chances we created, we will win more games than draw or loss with that kind of attitude and that kind of game plan and that kind of positiveness. So yes, we can be frustrated because I think there was a spirit to win the game, but on the other side, playing like that, we’ll manage to win more games. So that is for me, a positive note.”
With the point, NYCFC remained undefeated at home, with six wins and a draw.
David Villa said of the unlucky breaks for NYCFC in the second half, “I feel that we did everything, I don’t know how many chances we created in the 90 minutes, but I can only count one that they created, that being the goal. We deserved to win, normally with the quality that we have up top, when we create that many chances we win like we did against Salt Lake, Colorado, and Orlando. We need to give the keeper [Guzan] credit, even after we hit the posts he had some very good saves. We are disappointed with the result, but very happy with the way the team played today.”
Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan said of his performance after taking 25 shots, “I don’t know if it felt like more, but we were under a bit of pressure for long periods of time. It’s good to take a point. That can’t go unnoticed. But at the same time, we need to make sure that we’re better on Wednesday. We have to get pressure on the ball. We have to make sure that we close guys down. We need to have a stronger mentality when we’re not in possession of the ball how we’re going to deal with it. They’re a good team. We knew that coming in. We knew it was a hard place to come. But we were up for the challenge and the guys in there left everything on the field. It was hot. Things weren’t going our way. Bounces weren’t going our way. Uh, I shouldn’t say that because a few went off the post – just good goalkeeping, right? – No, but we got away with a couple things and so we’re looking at the next one. You know, we even have to grind, and guys for sure did that.”
Guzan said of what has to be done to improve, “I think our organization defensively. We can’t allow someone like David Villa time on the ball to make a pass. We can’t allow someone like Maxi [Moralez] to be able to pick his head up and find David Villa who’s making a great run as somebody else is pulling out one of our center backs and creating a massive gap, space, for Villa to run into and Maxi to play it to him. Those things aren’t going to us for 90 minutes. They’re going to get chances and fortunately, I was able to make some saves. Those moments, we need to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of how we’re going to defend certain situations.”
On if those things you can prepare for, Guzan said, “No, I think there’s a reason why they have such a good home record at this field. At their home stadium. It’s a tough place to come, so for one reason or another, it’s a tough place to come. And on top of that, they’re a good team. They play to their strengths. They do a good job of exposing gaps and exposing spaces in-between the lines that are difficult to get to. And when their backs are against the wall, it feels like there is an even bigger mountain to climb when you’re absorbing wave after wave of an attack.”
Atlanta Head Coach Gerardo Martino said of the game, “It was a hard point and unfair, it’s probably the first point we’ve taken without deserving it.”
Martino said of why the point was undeserved, “Because I think New York was the better team in the second half, up until Josef’s goal it was pretty much even but after that New York became the better team.”
On being the first team to get a point at Yankee Stadium, Martino said,“Yeah I think it was a good point, I thought it was a great performance by Brad but we know we still have to keep working to improve on our performance.”
The MLS will be taking a break for the World Cup, and NYCFC will be back in action on Sunday, June 24 at Yankee Stadium against Toronto FC.