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NYCFC vs Atlanta United – A Tale of Two Goaltenders

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Apr 8, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon (11) clears the ball during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night the guests in the Bronx were ready for some exciting soccer. Although Atlanta is ranked second in the east, Google had NYC favored to win, likely due to their impressive home field advantage. Historically, they have an unbelievable 62-12-22 record in regular- season home games since the start of the 2017 season, including 3-0-2 against Atlanta.

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The first half of the match was dominated by defense with only a total of 9 shots, including a single shot on goal by NYCFC. Both teams seemed sluggish, possibly from the cold or simply the chance to feel out the other squad. Brad Guzan went down hard with a knee injury after a collision with Brian Cufre, but recovered and was able to finish the game. Atlanta’s head coach Gonzalo Pineda felt that this was a tackle and not a collision and expressed concern that the referees showed disrespect by not calling a foul or showing Cufre a yellow card. When asked if he was concerned about being fined for his expression of disagreement with the officials, he stated that he will accept it if needed to protect his players from injury.

The second half started aggressively with yellow cards shown to NYCFC’s Pellegrini at 55’, Chanot at 76’ and Ilenic at 90’. James Sands was shown a yellow card at 61’, however, in a call disputed by Pineda, this was reversed and a red card shown to the Five Stripes’ Franco Ibarra. Sands was forced to leave the match due to pain resulting from this challenge, leading to concerns of possible fracture. The scoring drought ended dramatically with a goal from Giorgos Giakoumakis in the 70th minute, Gabi Pereira responded almost immediately with a goal for the Boys In Blue, tying the game at the 72nd minute. I give my personal MVP for this match to the goaltenders. Brad Guzan fought back valiantly from his early injury to make some spectacular saves, and Luis Barraza was consistent throughout the game, both allowing only one goal to score. Although Head Coach Nick Cushing stated “When you don’t win here, it always is going to feel like a missed opportunity” he should be proud of the strong defensive play. With Gabi Pereira likely to start soon we should see offensive improvement going into the next match against Nashville.

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