Atlanta United routs New York Red Bulls 3-0 in East final

New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles (31) kicks the ball away from Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann (25) during an MLS soccer playoff game Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta, (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez is greeted by fans on the red carpet arriving to play the New York Red Bulls in their Eastern Conference finals MLS soccer game on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez reacts after scoring a goal against the New York Red Bulls during the first half in their Eastern Conference finals MLS soccer game on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Atlanta United defender Leandro Gonzalez (5) and New York Red Bulls midfielder Alex Muyl (19) argue during MLS soccer playoff game Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta, (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta United head coach Gerardo Tata Martino directs his players during an MLS soccer playoff game against the New York Red Bulls Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta, (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) and New York Red Bulls defender Connor Lade (5) fight for control of the ball during an MLS soccer playoff game Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta, (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron is greeted by fans along the red carpet while arriving to play the New York Red Bulls in their Eastern Conference finals MLS soccer game on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
New York Red Bulls defender Connor Lade (5) and Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) fight for the ball MLS soccer playoff game Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta, (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA — Josef Martinez, Franco Escobar and Hector Villalba scored and Atlanta United blew out the Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls 3-0 on Sunday in the opening leg of the Eastern Conference final.

Atlanta gave itself a huge edge heading into the second leg Thursday night in Harrison, New Jersey. The winner of the two-game, cumulative-goals series will host the MLS Cup final Dec. 8 against either Portland or Sporting Kansas City.

Before a crowd of 70,016 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, United defeated the Red Bulls for the first time in franchise history after three losses and a draw in their previous meetings. Atlanta also gave itself a bit of redemption after losing the Supporters' Shield to New York on the final day of the regular season.

A matchup between the two best teams in MLS was a one-sided affair. Atlanta dominated much of the game and could have won by an even bigger margin. While a New York goal was waved off after a video review and goalkeeper Brad Guzan made a big save in the closing minutes, this game was played mostly in the Red Bulls' end of the field.

After controlling play from the opening whistle, Atlanta finally broke through in the 32nd minute.

Of course, it was Martinez who got the honors .

Jeff Larentowicz set up the play with a towering pass into the penalty area toward the Golden Boot winner and MVP finalist, who set an MLS scoring record with 31 goals during the regular season. Martinez wound up with the ball between two defenders after Tim Parker missed an attempted header, settling it with his chest and blasting a left-footed shot inside the far post that left keeper Luis Robles with no chance.

The Red Bulls appeared to tie it in the 53rd.

The ball was lofted into the area, where Aaron Long was able to head it back toward the front of the net. One New York player let it go by — straight to an unmarked Bradley Wright-Phillips, who sent a right-footed shot past a diving Guzan. But when referee Kevin Stott took another look at the play on video, it clearly showed Alex Muyl lingering offsides behind the last Atlanta defender as Wright-Phillips connected with the shot.

Atlanta padded its lead in the 72nd , this time on a play set up by its other MVP candidate, Miguel Almiron. He split the defense up top and threaded a pass down the left wing to Julian Gressel, who crossed it back in front toward Martinez. The United star unselfishly let it go by him, knowing Escobar was racing in all alone off the opposite wing.

Escobar ripped a shot past Robles to give United a two-goal edge.

Villalba provided an extra cushion when Atlanta hits the road , scoring in stoppage time with a brilliant shot that curled past two defenders and left Robles standing flat-footed.

With New York pressing for a goal, United had two other good scoring chances. Almiron shot wide on a 4-on-2 break, and Villalba hit the post with another attempt after brilliantly eluding two players and breaking in all alone on Robles.

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

___

For more AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

You may be interested in

Judge to Ex-NFL star: Can't ignore the damage you...

Aug 18, 2016

Former NFL star Darren Sharper is sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for drugging women in...

US Olympic gold hasn't made for winning bets in...

Aug 19, 2016

Rowing, shooting and judo _ the U.S. may have won big gold medals in those Olympic events but some...

Bryant powers Cubs to 9-2 win at Rockies

Aug 21, 2016

Chicago's Kris Bryant hit a long homer and drove in four runs to power the majors-leading Cubs to a...

Kobe Bryant starts $100 million investment fund

Aug 22, 2016

Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant is moving to Wall Street, announcing the formation of a $100 million...

Boy with double-hand transplant's next goal: Play...

Aug 24, 2016

It's been just over a year since 9-year-old Zion Harvey received a double-hand transplant _ and...

About Us

The Final Scoreboard has fast, accurate live scores for you. We provide premium online content from in-depth analysis to the scores and statistics across American and European Sports.

Contact us: sales[at]thefinalscoreboard.com

Subscribe Now!