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Atlanta United riding shutout streak into Red Bulls clash

(Image: Twitter/@atlutd)

Atlanta United will take their MLS-record shutout streak from coast to coast with a Sunday visit to the New York Red Bulls.

The defending MLS champions made it five consecutive shutouts with a 1-0 victory at Vancouver on Wednesday. That one came after a 1-0 home whitewash over Orlando City last Sunday at home.

It means Atlanta (6-3-2, 20 points) has earned six points in two matches since the Red Bulls played their last game. New York (4-5-2, 14 points) will enter off a 3-1 victory last Saturday that marked the first home loss for FC Dallas all season.

Before the shutout streak began, there were questions being raised about Atlanta United’s level of play after a 1-3-2 start, and a busy early schedule that included CONCACAF Champions League matches. There are no more questions now, especially on defense.

“I think you’re starting to see now the understanding of guys in terms of the spacing on the field, where we want to be when we have the ball, when we don’t have the ball,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “I think all those little things are now starting to click.”

Sunday’s matchup is the first time the two teams have met since last year’s Eastern Conference finals when Atlanta United took a 3-0 lead on the first leg and advanced to the MLS Cup Finals 3-1 on aggregate. The second-year side earned the title with a 2-0 MLS Cup victory over the Portland Timbers.

The Red Bulls finished last regular season with a better record than Atlanta United, earning the Supporters’ Shield. But New York got off to a slow start this year at 1-4-2, before recovering with improved offense to win three of its last four, including six goals scored in the last two victories.

“We see that they will be a tough opponent but we’re certainly looking forward to that matchup,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “We think they’re a team that loves possession, loves the ball and it will challenge our pressing on the day so we’re hoping they stick to that.”

While New York forward Bradley Wright-Phillips is close to a return from a groin injury, he is expected to miss at least one more game according to Armas, as is defender Aaron Long (hamstring). Midfielder Vincent Bezecourt (knee) is questionable and goalkeeper Luis Robles (calf) is probable.

Atlanta United will be without defender George Bello (adductor), midfielder Kevin Kratz (calf) and forward Brandon Vazquez (knee).

REUTERS/Field Level Media

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