Goals. Penalty kicks. Scuffles. Yellow cards. A red card. Reversed calls. Unfortunate injuries. Twelve minutes of added time. A pregame appearance from rapper T-Pain. And security guards chasing down a fan that ran onto the pitch.
Sunday night’s matchup between Atlanta United FC and the New York Red Bulls had a little bit of everything.
But the Five Stripes could only muster one goal at home in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, falling 3-1 to the Red Bulls in front of an announced 45,089 fans. It marks the first time ever that Atlanta (8-3-1, 25 points) has lost two straight home games. It is the fourth consecutive win for the Red Bulls (7-3-0, 21 points).
“It was a very difficult game,” Atlanta midfielder Ezequiel Barco said through a translator. “We expected it to be a hard game… The game turned a little ugly and things got more complicated for us. We’re sad with the result, but we just have to keep our heads up.”
For about two minutes, Atlanta actually led by two goals. Barco scored the first goal of the game in the 26th minute, slotting home a deflection off a Red Bulls defender.
The boat show has officially arrived in Atlanta 🚢 pic.twitter.com/HbOyZg1Lo5
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) May 20, 2018
Five minutes later, Josef Martínez fought past a defender on a breakaway for a one-on-one opportunity with Ryan Meara, who was starting in place of injured New York goalkeeper Luis Robles. Martínez danced around Meara and scored for an early two-goal advantage. But then referee Chris Penso blew his whistle and jogged over to the video review area. Penso came back and ruled that Maríinez fouled Tim Parker before the score and erased the goal. After brief boos, Atlanta United fans went silent.
Penso told a reporter after the game that “video review identified a tripping offense by Martínez on Parker.” Martínez refused to talk to media.
In the 42nd minute, a penalty kick was awarded to the Red Bulls after Penso ruled Miles Robinson had fouled Bradley Wright-Phillips in the box. Daniel Royer played the shot right up the middle and past Brad Guzan, who dove to his right.
Wright-Phillips added two more goals for the Red Bulls in the second half, heading two balls into the back of the net.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) May 21, 2018
Atlanta fell into a deeper hole in the 71st minute when Greg Garza lost possession of the ball and – in an effort to win it back – slid studs up into Sean Davis’ knee. Garza was given a red card and the Five Stripes were left with 10 men.
Garza also appeared to injure his right shoulder on the play. He’d been playing with a torn labrum already. He’ll miss Atlanta’s next match against the New England Revolution May 30 because of the red card, but the club did not comment on the status of his health after the game.
“Greg had a long touch and he went in and tried to win the ball back and the ref gave him a red card and I think he hurt his shoulder on the play,” said Barco, who was near the play. “I think for most of the game we were the superior team, and then we had a player sent off and that doesn’t help things, but I think we’re superior and we know we just have a lot of things to keep working on.”
Leandro González Pírez will also miss Atlanta’s next match due to yellow card accumulation. He picked up his fifth of the season in the 65th minute. After the match, González Pírez said that Penso and VAR referee Mark Geiger should be “suspended” and that the penalty call on Robinson was “stupid.”
Play was delayed three other times in the match, which led to the whopping 12 minutes of added time. The first came right after halftime, when Penso issued a straight red card to Jeff Larentowicz for a challenge on Davis. After review, the card was reduced to a yellow.
Then, in the 85th minute, a fan ran onto the field and kicked the ball in the direction of Guzan. After running for a few seconds, he was tackled by security and escorted off the pitch, a first for an Atlanta United game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
May 20, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) and New York Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer (77) fight for the ball during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
A somber mood fell on the match in the 73rd minute when Red Bulls’ defender Kemar Lawrence went down with an apparent injury. The ball struck Lawrence and he laid motionless on the pitch for several minutes. He was eventually carted off and taken to a nearby hospital.
The Red Bulls gave an update on Lawrence in a tweet, saying “Kemar is conscious, fully responsive and in good spirits. He will be held at the hospital overnight for observation.”
Without González Pírez and Garza, Atlanta’s defensive depth will be tested in their next match, when they head to Foxborough, Mass., to try to put a tally back in the win column.
“This is one of those times where the depth will get tested. Hopefully Chris (McCann) will make a recovery by then and he can slot right in, but we have a number of guys that can play,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst said. “We’re confident in our depth. We’ve done it before this year. We’re going to go up there and try to bounce back from this loss.”