Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls Picks 7/11/20
In the last time out, Atlanta defeated Cincinnati 2-1 on March 7; New York drew 1-1 with Real Salt Lake on March 7.
The sides drew 3-3 on July 7, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
About the Matchup:
For all that Atlanta United have done in their four years as an MLS side (and they've done plenty, having reached the Eastern Conference final last year and won the MLS Cup in 2018), there's one thing the Five Stripes have never done in the regular season: beat the Red Bulls. New York has been the one team Atlanta hasn't been able to solve, as the Red Bulls own a 4-0-2 record all-time against Atlanta in regular-season play. Atlanta did manage to advance past New York in the playoffs in 2018 by winning one of their two matches, but that's been the only time the Five Stripes have had any success in this matchup.
Given the history and the fact that Atlanta comes into this tournament down Josef Martinez, who was lost for the season back in March, there's reason to believe we might be looking at an upset here, which would completely throw Group E into turmoil.
Scouting Atlanta United:
When they're healthy, Atlanta is a team without weakness as far as MLS is concerned. When they're down Josef Martinez, they're still pretty good, but they're not quite the same team. Atlanta managed to get a pair of results in the first two matches of the season, beating both Nashville and Cincinnati by 2-1 scorelines. Still, they weren't exactly convincing in either contest. Clearly, this is not quite the same Atlanta team without its star, and it changes how to look at them in this tournament.
If they can get substantial contributions from the likes of Emerson Hyndman and Ezequiel Barco, who have combined for all four of Atlanta's goals this season, the Five Stripes will remain one of the top teams in MLS and could even compete for the tournament championship. But if Atlanta can't step up its performances at the backline, this season could be a struggle, and Atlanta could find itself struggling to make it out of the group stage in a loaded Group E.
Scouting New York Red Bulls:
On the one hand, the attack did what it was supposed to do in the first two matches, getting four goals from four different scorers and allowing the Red Bulls to get a win and a draw to begin the season. On the other, New York didn't exactly boss the match against Cincinnati, giving up two goals against the run of play that nearly allowed the Orange and Blue to steal a draw.
This is a young squad that's still making adjustments under Chris Armas, who needs to make adjustments himself after getting his tactics wrong when it mattered most against Atlanta in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. In that two-legged playoff, Armas shifted away from New York's usual style of pressuring the ball and forcing the issue, instead opting to sit back and let the match come to them. The plan backfired horribly as Atlanta scored three goals in that match, which remains the only time Atlanta has gotten a win of any kind against the Red Bulls.
The question here is, can New York play its usual gameplan in the Florida heat? If the Red Bulls are able to press Atlanta, this could turn into a major surprise. If they wilt in the heat, Atlanta will have the edge.
Dan's Score Prediction:
I can easily see this match coming out as a draw, which would be enough for both teams to put themselves in a good position for the knockout stage. But given that Atlanta is down its best scorer and goals are at a premium in this tournament, I think it's worth the gamble to back a Red Bull shutout. 1-0 has been the most common scoreline in this matchup, and this tournament, and at +1300, it's too tempting to resist taking a 1-0 win for the Red Bulls in this group opener.
Atlanta vs. New York Best Bets
Given the teams' respective styles and how they match up with each other, this is a tough one to pick. If New York can pressure the ball and force mistakes, Atlanta will have a hard time getting anything going. Because of that, I think the best bet on the board might be to take Atlanta to fail to score in the first half at +105. New York has proven to be difficult for the Five Stripes to solve, and they have to do it without Josef Martinez. If Atlanta does score, I think it's not going to come until at least the second half, when the heat might start to wear down the Red Bulls' pressure. If you're feeling more daring, taking a scoreless first half at +240 might be an even better way to go.
For the match itself, I think there's real value in gambling on New York to win and under 2.5 goals at +775. Three of the teams' past five meetings across all competitions have ended with a Red Bull victory by either 1-0 or 2-0, and if we go back even further, Atlanta has failed to score in half of the teams' eight meetings. Given that teams are having real trouble finding the net in this tournament and the Five Stripes are down their best scorer, I see plenty of value in backing New York to keep a clean sheet at +375.
If you want to play a bit more conservative, I think you'll still find excellent value in New York to win under 3.5 at +400. That'll give you insurance against an Atlanta goal, which could be very helpful given that Atlanta has scored in 27 consecutive matches against MLS competition, a streak that dates back to May 19, 2019...against the Red Bulls.