MLS: Atlanta United FC cruise to first-leg win over New York Red Bulls in Eastern Conference final

Los Angeles: Josef Martinez set the early tone with a first-half goal as Atlanta United FC easily won the first leg of their Eastern Conference final series with a dominating 3-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

Atlanta United forward Hector Villalba reacts after defeating the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference. Reuters

Atlanta United forward Hector Villalba reacts after defeating the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference. Reuters

Martinez, who scored a record 31 goals in the regular season, scored in the 32nd minute while Franco Escobar (71st) and Hector Villalba (stoppage time) added second-half markers in a matchup between the top two MLS teams.

The win gives Atlanta a big advantage heading into the second leg of the two-game, total-goal series Thursday at Red Bull Arena. The winners move on to host the MLS final on 8 December against either Sporting Kansas City or the Portland Timbers, who battled to a 0-0 draw Sunday night.

"The first thing we can say is that we're finally able to beat them," Atlanta manager Tata Martino said, adding, "I think the team did a good job. It was a team win and we didn't suffer aside from two situations on set pieces."

"I think we were solid defensively. We'll have to analyze it to see if the difference was deserved. And we'll get ready for another battle on Thursday," said Martino.

Red Bulls Bradley Wright-Phillips appeared to have scored a goal in the 53rd minute, but officials ruled that teammate Alex Muyl was offside. The contest, in front of a crowd of 70,020 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, showcased the league's best.

Atlanta scored 70 goals this season, the most in the league and eight more than New York. The Red Bulls, who suffered their first loss to Atlanta, finished the regular season with an MLS record 71 points, two more than Atlanta.

Elsewhere, neither Portland or Sporting were able to get a leg up as they played to a scoreless draw. Both teams had opportunities to score and Portland had a goal disallowed because of an offside call. Jorge Villafina had one of the best chances early in the contest but his right-footed shot rattled off the post.

Sporting KC's Johnny Russell saw his shot at the start of the second half sail over the crossbar and Daniel Salloi's late chance from the box area was blocked by Portland's Liam Ridgewell.

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Updated Date: Nov 26, 2018 13:35:11 IST

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