In many ways, Atlanta United represents everything that NYCFC should have been. The expansion team that got a stadium less than one season into their history; a young, dynamic team with a coach that was interested in playing attractive soccer. Most importantly, they created a culture of winning from day one and now sit in pole position to win every major domestic trophy before the end of year three.
It was supposed to be City, not Atlanta!
Sunday’s road game for NYCFC against Atlanta will make everything mentioned above even more apparent. Atlanta, despite having a tough season under new head coach Frank de Boer, is still scoring goals and making a case to be a favorite for MLS Cup yet again. City will have to stare up at a wall of humanity at Mercedes Benz Stadium as Atlanta has set the record for attendance on more than one occasion.
“New York is a very goo team,” said de Boer to AJC. “They have quality players. It’s a team that we have count on for MLS Cup. They’ve lost one or two games the whole season. They are very solid and the quality during the game is a very high standard.”
Atlanta knows it won’t be an easy game and one that both teams need in order to fight for home field advantage in the playoffs. City is just one point back of Atlanta with two games in hand. A direct win not only puts City above their Sunday opponents but also gets them closer to the standard set by Atlanta as a winner club and a constant contender.
Since joining the league in 2015, City have never inspired their fans to believe in a long playoff run. This season has had moments but the lack of star power and woeful performances like the one against Salt Lake in the last week continues to seed doubt. The opposition is aware of City’s quality but the team, for some reason, has yet to reach the heights that the front office and fans have come to expect.
“I think always when Atlanta and NYCFC play it’s one of the best games in MLS,” said captain Alex Ring. “They have always been entertaining games and we want to win.”
Winning will be key for City to meet that new MLS standard and potentially get New York City to believe in a team that has yet to give them a true reason to trust in the results.