Red Bulls look to remain undefeated vs. Atlanta United
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The New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United FC have built an intense rivalry over a relatively short period of time. However, the immediate focus for both is bouncing back from a couple of ugly defeats.
Looking to remain undefeated in the regular season against United, the Red Bulls visit Atlanta on Sunday.
Atlanta (9-7-2, 29 points) is two points better than New York (8-7-3) in the Eastern Conference table, but has been outscored 8-2 while going 0-4-1 against the Red Bulls during the regular season. Of course, United got the better of New York during last year's conference final en route to winning the MLS Cup.
But Atlanta is looking for payback after falling 1-0 at the 10-men Red Bulls on May 19. Tom Barlow's goal in the 65th minute was the difference during a match that was both physical and testy.
"Nobody wants to give away anything, and there's always a lot of fight in this game," New York midfielder Daniel Royer, who assisted on Barlow's goal, told the MLS official website. "So, we definitely expect a tough matchup and we'll be ready for the challenge."
It will be interesting to see how both clubs react after being easily handled in their previous matches. The Red Bulls dropped their second straight MLS road contest, 4-0 at Houston, on Wednesday while Atlanta was pummeled 5-1 at Chicago on the same night.
"The good thing is it's only three points, but if (they were) not already thinking about the Red Bulls (right after Wednesday's match), then it can be more than three points," Atlanta coach Frank de Boer told the club's official website.
Atlanta will have star Josef Martinez (team-leading 10 goals) back from international duty. However, knee injuries will keep United midfielders Ezequiel Barco (four goals) and Hector Villalba out.
New York will be minus midfielder Kaku and defender Michael Murillo due to suspensions, while fellow defender Tim Parker (ankle) is questionable. Red Bulls fullback Kemar Lawrence, who was in the middle of some heated moments with Atlanta players in May, could be available now that his international obligation has ended.