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New York Red Bulls beat Atlanta United 2-0, move within one point in Supporters’ Shield race

HARRISON, N.J. — The Supporters’ Shield race is on.

Danny Royer and Tim Parker scored a goal in each half to lift the shorthanded New York Red Bulls to a 2-0 win over Atlanta United in front of an announced crowd of 22,057 Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena.

The Red Bulls (19-7-5, 62 points) moved to within a point of first-place Atlanta (19-6-6, 63 points) in the Shield race with three games to play for both Eastern Conference foes.

“We’re going to keep playing the same way,” Red Bulls midfielder Kaku said through a translator. “We’re going to keep running and fighting the same way. We’re going to try to win the games and they’re going to try to win the games. It’s going to be difficult for them and we’re just going to hope for them to trip up.”

The Red Bulls were on the front foot for the majority of the first half and took a deserved lead in the 39th minute when Royer buried a penalty kick to the left of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who guessed the other way, after Chris McCann handled the ball in the box. It was Royer’s 11th goal of the season.

That was the second time referee Robert Sibiga pointed to the spot in the first half. The first, when Alex Muyl went down as Guzan dived for the ball in the 25th minute, was reversed following video review.

“I think we just overwhelmed them and were just the better team overall,” Royer said. “But especially in the first half, we were more aggressive, we played the way we wanted to play and we looked like us. I think that was an important piece for that game.”

After absorbing pressure for the first 30 minutes of the second half, the Red Bulls doubled their lead in the 75th minute on Parker’s first goal of the season. Muyl beat Guzan to a Marc Rzatkowski through ball and slid to push the ball in front of the open goal, where Parker slammed home.

Parker had a similar chance in the first half, but he was ruled offside.

It’s awesome,” Parker said. “Scoring a goal is great, but obviously the shutout on the other end is just as sweet.”

Sep 30, 2018; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence (92) heads a high ball against Atlanta United forward Hector Villalba (15) in front of Atlanta defender Jeff Larentowicz (18) and New York midfielder Daniel Royer (77) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Bulls had a golden chance to make it 3-0 late when Kaku stepped to the spot after Eric Remedi was called for a hand ball in the box. But Guzan dived to his right to save the low attempt.

Despite being without arguably their two best players in suspended forward Bradley Wright-Phillips and injured midfielder Tyler Adams (back), the Red Bulls played their best 45 minutes of the season in the first half.

“Today we were hoping maybe it can galvanize our team and you get energy from it and say ‘hey, we can all step up a little more,’ which they did,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “So I think that says a lot about our club and it’s just a big demand all the time to say, it’s easy to talk, but the guys that show up and perform the way they did was most impressive.”

Kemar Lawrence played like a man possessed, first setting up Brian White, Wright-Phillips’ replacement, with a whipped-in cross in the opening minute that the rookie headed over the crossbar. 

Later in the half he raced back to tackle the ball away from Hector Villalba on a recovery run when Atlanta tried to hit the Red Bulls in transition and forced Julian Gressel into a yellow card for a late challenge two minutes from halftime.

Kemar was great,” Parker said. “Obviously Kemar is lights out every week, but today the way he played on that left side locking things down was huge.”

The Red Bulls swept the season series and improve to 3-0-1 against Atlanta United all-time. 

It’s all about mentality and philosophy I think,” Royer said. “If everyone in the squad embraces the philosophy that we play, it’s hard for any team that comes to Red Bull Arena. The system is that we don’t want to let them play. They’re a possession team so make it uncomfortable for them and that’s what we did.”

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