Major League Soccer

NYCFC eliminate Atlanta United to advance to Eastern Conference semifinals

Lizzy Becherano
New York City FC eliminate Atlanta United with a 2-0 victory on Sunday
New York City FC eliminate Atlanta United with a 2-0 victory on Sunday / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages

New York City FC secured their place in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after defeating Atlanta United 2-0 at Yankee Stadium in Sunday’s Round one match. NYCFC is now set to face Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution on November 30. 

Atlanta United held the advantage during the first half, retaining possession to manage more shots on goal than NYCFC. The home side retaliated in the 44th minute through a Santiago Rodriguez strike, but the goal was quickly taken off the board on an offside decision confirmed by VAR. 

NYCFC regained their momentum, finding a goal early in the second 45. Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos found himself in the right place at the right time to bounce a volley off his foot and into the back of the net for the early lead. 

There was nothing Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan could do to save the shot, having been caught off guard. 

The Cityzens then doubled their lead minutes later as Alexander Callens scored his second goal of 2021 after being left with an open-net header on the rebound of Maxi Moralez’s initial strike saved by Guzan. The Atlanta goalkeeper made an excellent diving stop to deny the first shot, pushing the ball onto the post for Callens to pick up and net. 

Atlanta had a few opportunities on the attack, but couldn’t get past NYCFC’s defense to find the back of the net. NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson made only four stops throughout the 90 minutes to preserve his second career playoff clean sheet. 

To make matters worse, Atlanta's Alan Franco was set off during stoppage time after being shown a second yellow card. He is now set to miss the team’s first match of the 2022 season. 

NYCFC, however, didn’t walk away clean. Prior to the final whistle, midfielder Alfredo Morales left with a late second-half injury, leaving him questionable for the upcoming Eastern Conference semifinal match against the Revolution.