Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron and forward Josef Martinez

© Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United defeats NYCFC, advances to Eastern Conference Finals

November 11, 2018 - 10:32 pm

ATLANTA (Nov. 11, 2018) — Atlanta United defeated New York City FC 3-1 (4-1 on aggregate) Sunday night to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2018 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. In front of an MLS Cup Playoff record of 70,526 fans, Josef Martinez scored twice and Miguel Almirón curled in a free kick to lead Atlanta. It will now play New York Red Bulls at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 25 in Leg One of the Eastern Conference Finals; Leg Two will be Thursday, Nov. 29 at Red Bull Arena. Official kickoff time and broadcast information for both matches will be announced at a later time.

Martinez opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 25th minute. Franco Escobar drew the foul near the end line after he charged into the box, but his feet were cleared out by Ismael Tajouri-Shradi before he had the opportunity to cross. Martinez stepped up to the spot and calmly slotted the ball the right corner.

Atlanta doubled the lead in the 42nd from an Almirón free kick. Placed directly in the center of the pitch from about 25 yards out, Almirón beautifully curled a ball around the left side of the wall and into the upper left corner to leave Sean Johnson little chance to make a save.

However, NYCFC immediately answered just before halftime in the 45th minute from Maxime Chanot. David Villa stepped up for a free kick from the left wing, but his attempt was initially redirected – after it seemed destined for the near post – off of Julian Gressel, who was on the far right of a three-man wall. The ball floated right to Chanot who was able to head it into an empty net.

Clinging to a two-goal aggregate lead in the second half, Atlanta put the series away in the 83rd minute as Martinez finished off his brace. Eric Remedi perfectly chipped a pass through the NYCFC defense for Martinez, who played the ball down with his chest, waited for a pair of bounces off the turf, then rifled a shot with his right foot past Johnson.