New York picked up a massive three points over the weekend, scoring in injury-time to defeat CF Montreal 1-0, while Atlanta conceded two minutes from the end to draw Toronto 1-1.
In their last two victories, New York have left it late but have got the job done, and as a result, they are on the verge of a return trip to the postseason.
Gerhard Struber saw his team start slowly on Saturday, but they were sharp in their build-up and transitions in the second half, winning their third successive encounter at home.
In the end, even though they only had 36% possession, it was a well-deserved win for the Red Bulls, who did not give Montreal a lot of good looks, limiting them to only one shot on target, having now collected three successive clean sheets at Red Bull Arena.
All season long, they have been committed to a high-pressing system aimed to create turnovers, but they have also done everything to prevent their opponents from gaining a lot of build-up by committing plenty of fouls, conceding 18 free kicks on Saturday and a total of 69 over their previous five contests.
Defensively, they have proven to be highly compact and even more challenging to break down, allowing a goal or fewer in every fixture played over the past three months as they are tied with Nashville SC for the fewest goals allowed (32) in the Eastern Conference.
They have had less than 50% possession in three of their past four games but have been efficient without the ball, giving their opponents very little time and space and making the most of their counterattacks.
Atlanta United deserve a ton of credit for how they have been able to turn around what was a dismal season in the early going, but they do not make it easy on themselves.
On Saturday, the Five Stripes had everything go their way with DC United and Montreal losing, plus a draw from Orlando City, but they failed to take care of business themselves, letting a one-goal lead slip away in a match where they could have clinched a postseason berth had they hung on to their advantage.
Should they miss the playoffs for a second successive campaign, Atlanta will only have themselves to blame, having now squandered 18 points from a winning position this year.
The Five Stripes come into this contest three points above the playoff line, with their final two regular-season games on the road, an area that has been a trouble spot for them in 2021, winning only three times this year as the visitors.
Gonzalo Pineda knows that his players were far too complacent at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Saturday after going up 1-0 in the 15th minute but failing to put the game away despite many second-half chances.
Had Atlanta held onto a pair of 1-0 leads at home last month to Toronto and New York City FC, not only would they be officially in the postseason right now, but they could be in third place and in line for a home playoff fixture.
Fabio scored the winning goal on Saturday, his first for the Red Bulls since September 17, putting him into a tie for second on the team with Cristian Casseres at six, while Caden Clark moved into a tie for second with Kyle Duncan in assists, with his third of the year over the weekend.
Aaron Long remains sidelined with his Achilles issue, Omir Fernandez is out because of hamstring tightness and the same goes for John Tolkin, who was on the bench but could not play because of that injury on Saturday.
Midfielder Sean Davis has done a fantastic job of breaking up the rhythm and ball movement of the opposition, winning the second-most tackles in the league (53) behind only Claudio Bravo (54), while goalkeeper Carlos Coronel has usually been able to make a big save when they need it, collecting his 12th clean sheet of the campaign, putting him one behind William Yarbrough and Joe Willis.
Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan played great again on Saturday, stopping seven shots, his second-highest total of the season, but he could not prevent the final shot from going in, as Jordan Perruzza picked up his first of the year for Toronto.
Luiz Araujo scored his fourth of the campaign this weekend, as he has been involved in five of the last six goals scored by the Five Stripes, with three goals and two assists in his previous four games.
New York Red Bulls possible starting lineup:
Coronel; Edwards, Nealis, Reyes; Duncan, Yearwood, Davis, Amaya; Casseres, Fabio, Klimala
Atlanta United possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Robinson, Franco, Walkes; Lennon, Mulraney, Moreno, Bello; Araujo, Barco, Martinez
We say: New York Red Bulls 0-0 Atlanta United
The Five Stripes have never won or scored a goal in three previous visits to Red Bull Arena, and we expect that trend to continue as New York have done a masterful job of shutting down opposing sides at home, and when they do allow opportunities, Coronel is usually there to bail them out.
body check tags ::
Previews by email