June 8, 2018 / 4:54 PM / 8 months ago

NYCFC faces East-leading Atlanta, looks to stay perfect at home

Storylines will be abundant Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium and it will not be anything baseball related.

While the Yankees and Red Sox will meet in three weeks at Yankee Stadium, the best teams in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference will get together when New York City FC hosts the Atlanta United.

It will be the second meeting the teams, who engaged in a 2-2 draw April 15 in Atlanta when New York’s Alexander Ring scored the tying goal in the 73rd minute after being set up by David Villa.

Since the first meeting, Atlanta is 5-2-1 in its last eight games while New York is 3-3-1 in its last seven games.

Atlanta owns a two-point lead over NYCFC with two games remaining before the league takes a brief hiatus for the World Cup. After visiting Yankee Stadium, Atlanta heads into the break after visiting Columbus on Wednesday.

“Away in NYC is the toughest game on the schedule just given the opponent and the field conditions,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst told reporters. “It’s really difficult to play there, and they play so well on their home field. It will be a tough challenge for us. It was one of our worst games last year, so we want to go out there and have a better performance this year against them. “

A win and two losses by Atlanta before the break would push NYCFC atop the East, though it will need to play better than Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to the rival New York Bulls in a U.S. Open Cup fourth-round contest.

NYFC has outscored foes 18-2 in winning its first six home games (6-0-0) after rookie Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored two goals in last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Orlando City. Tajouri-Shradi has seven goals on eight shots while David Villa has eight goals, good for fifth in the league.

Villa did not enter last Saturday’s game until the 65th minute.

Atlanta boasts the league’s top goal scorer in Josef Martinez, who has 12 goals total and four in his last two games. Atlanta is 5-2-1 in its last eight games and is coming off last Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union when Martinez recorded his fifth career MLS hat trick by scoring twice on penalty kicks.

Martinez has played just 34 MLS games and is the fastest player in league history to reach five hat tricks.

There also are rampant rumors that this might be the final game coached by New York’s Patrick Vieira. There are numerous reports from France saying Vieira is set to join OGC Nice and a report by RMC Sport claimed the deal is done and Vieira will leave after Saturday’s game.

“We’re going to play, I believe, against, I have to say, one of the best, if not the best team in this league,” Vieira told reporters after a training session. “We want to win that game and I want players, myself, the football club to focus on that game.

“We’re going to have a break after that and it will be important for us to win that game because we will be in front of them and that will be really important for us.”

—Field Level Media

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