ATLANTA — It’s easy to say now, in hindsight, but Atlanta United FC may not have beaten New York City FC in the Eastern Conference semifinals were it not for the play of Eric Remedi.
Not only did the Argentine defensive midfielder help shut down the dynamic attacking tandem of David Villa and Maxi Moralez, but his play also led to a pair of goals for the Five Stripes. Remedi scored the lone goal in the first leg, a 1-0 win for Atlanta in the Bronx, and then he provided the assist to Josef Martinez’s second-half strike that sealed a 3-1 win for the Five Stripes in Atlanta on Sunday.
Remedi, 23, had zero goals and just one assist through his first 13 games with Atlanta United, but in the playoffs he’s showed the ability to be a two-way player — one that can wreck the opposing team’s top attacker on one end and provide a key pass on the other.
“He’s a play-maker,” teammate Julian Gressel said of Remedi. “He’s a great player. He has great technique. He’s important for us because he’s playing well in the middle and he showed up this game.”
Remedi came to Atlanta midseason on a transfer from Banfield, a club in Argentina. The versatile and tough 5-foot-6 midfielder was seen as the replacement for Carlos Carmona, who partnered with Jeff Larentowicz in the defensive midfield during the 2017 season. Carmona was sold back to a club in his native Chile prior to the start of this season so he could be with his wife, who was pregnant.
Before signing Remedi, Atlanta briefly flirted with Stephane Mbia, but the club and the 31-year-old Cameroonian never reached an agreement. Remedi arrived about three months later and has started in every game for the Five Stripes since July 28.
“Eric contributes a lot to the team, not just on the field, but off the field as well,” Miguel Almiron said through a translator. “He’s a great person, a great guy to have in the locker room.”
He has proven to be a solid passer, a devastating tackler, a smart player and a tough midfielder who seems to always be in the right place at the right time.
That was the case in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Remedi’s goal in the 37th minute wound up being the difference. Remedi positioned himself near the far post as Gressel delivered a corner kick and the cross found Josef Martinez, who delivered a hard strike on target, but NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson halted the shot. The ball trickled away from Johnson and Remedi sprinted up to it just in time to poke it past the keeper for a goal. It was the first goal for Remedi in his professional career.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 5, 2018
Remedi then helped Martinez score his first non-penalty kick goal since Sept. 19 in the second leg of the series. After receiving a short pass from Miles Robinson in the 83rd minute, Remedi dribbled past one NYCFC defender before chipping the ball over two others. Martinez chested the ball and then fired a shot past Johnson to seal the victory for the Five Stripes.
“He is very gifted technically,” Atlanta manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said through a translator. “And you saw that on the assist he played to Josef.”
Can't. Stop. Watching. 😱 pic.twitter.com/0ISHNpQWw4
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) November 12, 2018
In addition to his goal and assist, Remedi racked up two clearances, seven tackles, three interceptions and 53 successful passes over the two games against NYCFC. Remedi helped form a defensive unit against NYCFC that held them to just four shots on-target for the series. Villa was fouled twice and Morales was fouled 11 times.
Remedi earned one yellow card for a foul in the 7th minute of the first leg, but was able to play the next 173 minutes of the series without getting hit with another. While Remedi can sometimes play recklessly, he also showed he has control.
For Atlanta United in the playoffs, Remedi has provided a little bit of everything and he’s a big reason why the Five Stripes are now in the Eastern Conference Finals and one step closer to winning the MLS Cup.
“He’s fantastic. He put in a ton of work,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst said. “He covered a lot of ground tonight. (Moralez) is one of the best 10’s in the game and shutting him down is a big key to success against New York City. Eric was all over the place.”