Josef Martínez scored a late penalty and then headed home an apparent winner in stoppage time. Atlanta switched off, and Bradley Wright-Phillips was allowed to run free in the box and level the game from close range a minute after Josef Martínez’s second goal.
“When you are so close to a victory, whatever pass is coming into your area, you have to stop it,” manager Frank de Boer said in his postgame press conference. “We weren’t tight enough in that moment. We have to understand, it’s 30 seconds or 40 seconds to go, so we have to try to get everything in, every body in front of the ball.
“It wasn’t enough, because you work so hard to come back, and then you go with a very bad taste in your mouth.”
“We were naive, we got stretched,” Brad Guzan said when asked what he saw from the goalmouth. “In those moments, you need to have an understanding where guys are. You can’t allow someone like Bradley Wright-Phillips eight yards from goal, inside the penalty box free.”
New York left back Kyle Duncan pulled Josef Martínez in the penalty area as the two jostled for a second ball off an Atlanta corner. Josef Martínez stepped up and buried his spot kick, sending Luis Robles the wrong way in the 79th minute. In stoppage time, Franco Escobar floated a diagonal cross into Josef Martínez, who headed in off the underside of the cross bar.
Atlanta and New York kicked off about an hour after the United States women’s national team secured its fourth World Cup title and played in front of an announced crowd of 68,077.
“They deserved more,” Justin Meram said of the fans after the game.
Jul 7, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef MartAnez (7) walks onto the pitch before their match between the New York Red Bulls at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Josef Martínez returned from Copa America duty with Venezuela to start at center forward for Atlanta, but the game was lacking some star power. Wright-Phillips scored in 13-minute cameo after starting on the bench. Aaron Long was in Chicago with the U.S. men’s national team for the Gold Cup final. Ezequiel Barco and Héctor “Tito” Villalba missed out for the Five Stripes, the latter still recovering from a knee injury sustained the last time these teams met on May 19.
Meram opened the scoring in the 10th minute. Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez carried the ball across midfield in transition and played a simple pass to Meram on the left wing. The Iraq international’s first touch was brilliant, taking him inside Duncan and through on goal. Meram calmly finished with a low shot inside Robles’ near post from 18 yards. In what may be a burgeoning trademark celebration, he ran to the corner flag and planted, facing the home fans with his arms outstretched to his side.
“I’m just happy I can contribute,” Meram said. “There was a couple of chances where I could have took a little bit of weight off on the final pass to Josef, and maybe it’s a different outcome. So I’ve just got to keep working, keep improving, and that’s my mindset.”
New York’s high press netted an equalizer in the 37th. Mikey Ambrose, starting at left fullback, tried to collect a lofted pass from Brad Guzan but was dispossessed by Alex Muyl. With Atlanta’s defense out of shape, Muyl quickly passed to Marc Rzatkowski, who laid the ball off for Royer in the Five Stripes’ penalty area. Franco Escobar overran the play, and Royer blasted a shot past Guzan from 13 yards.
The Red Bulls pushed ahead on 61 minutes thanks to an unforced Atlanta error. Michael Parkhurst, having subbed on for an injured Florentin Pogba in the first half, lost his bearings on a through ball to Muyl, giving the winger time and space to hit a cross for Brian White. White’s first-time finish was uncontested.
Pogba started at left centerback in place of Leandro González-Píerz, who was on a red card suspension. Pogba subbed off in the 29th minute with a hamstring injury. De Boer blamed the injury on Pogba playing his third game in eight days.
New York controlled much of the second half, but after Josef Martínez leveled for Atlanta, the Five Stripes woke up and pushed for a winner. The Venezuelan thought he had answered Atlanta’s prayers and ripped off his shirt after completing his brace, but Wright-Phillips had other ideas.