Caden Clark capped off an impressive MLS debut by scoring the winning goal, as New York Red Bulls overcame Atlanta United 1 – 0 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It has been a whirlwind 48 hours for the 17-year-old midfielder, with the Red Bulls only securing his MLS rights from Minnesota United a day earlier, for a fee of $75,000. He struck just two minutes into the second half, with a sweetly struck volley from the edge of the box, after a headed-out corner finding the bottom corner of Brad Guzan’s goal. There was a question of offside around the goal, with Guzan insistent that Daniel Royer had obstructed his view, but the officials were happy and the goal was allowed to stand, much to Clark’s delight.
The first half was a fairly uneventful one, with the first meaningful chance not coming until after 20 minutes, when a poor Guzan goal kick found its way to the feet of Samuel Tetteh, who played the ball into Royer, but nobody was able to get on the end of the Austrian’s cross.
Atlanta dominated the remainder of the first 45 minutes, and their sustained spell of pressure led to a chance for Jake Mulraney to open the scoring with an effort that looked to be going comfortably wide, until Royer stuck a leg out and deflected the ball onto the crossbar, in a let off for the visitors.
After half-time, Clark’s 47th minute goal changed the dynamic of the contest, with Atlanta stepping up their intensity in the search to find an equalising goal. The player they will have hoped would be able to provide that attacking spark was new designated player Marcelino Moreno, in for his debut after signing from Lanús, but the Argentinian was the first player to be substituted off, as he was replaced by Adam Jahn after little over an hour.
It was always the Red Bulls who looked most like finding a second goal though, with Kyle Duncan curling a left-footed shot just inches wide of the post, after a strong spell of keeping possession, much to the frustration of United.
A half-chance for Emerson Hyndman came soon after, as the ball sat up for nicely for the ex-Fulham and Bournemouth man to hit on the half-volley, but his attempt went sailing over bar, with that proving to be Atlanta’s chance until the dying seconds of the contest.
In the match’s final ten minutes, New York struck the woodwork again through their new designated player Dru Yearwood, who had come off the bench just a few minutes earlier. Signed from Brentford in August, Yearwood’s quick footwork fashioned an opportunity for himself to unleash a 20-yard drive which rattled the bottom of the post, leaving the Atlanta United goal living a charmed life.
As 4th official Sergii Demianchuk held up the board to indicate four minutes of additional time, Atlanta threw bodies up field in the hope of levelling the scores late on, and they so nearly did when Hyndman found himself 1-on-1 with Ryan Meara, but the NYRB goalkeeper was quick off his line to snuff out the chance. The ball was cleared, but only as far as Jon Gallagher, who’s desperate effort was blocked behind for a corner, which was subsequently cleared.
Silly yellow cards were given to Tim Parker and Hyndman for timewasting and a slap respectively, with Jair Marrufo blowing his whistle seconds later to bring the match to an end, with New York Red Bulls coming out as 1 – 0 victors thanks to Caden Clark’s debut volley.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: CADEN CLARK
Franco Escobar defended valiantly throughout for Atlanta, but it was youngster Caden Clark who contributed when it mattered most for NYRB. Although he didn’t have too much impact on the game aside from his goal, the goal was so well taken that soon-to-be Red Bulls Head Coach Gerhard Struber must be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of being able to develop Clark into an MLS regular. And if that does happen? Then you’d have to think sister clubs RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig will be taking a very keen eye on his progress. But for the time being, the future is bright for Caden Clark.
LINE-UPS & PLAYER RATINGS:
ATLANTA UNITED: Guzan 6, Lennon 6, Escobar 8, Walkes 6, Bello 7, Larentowicz 6 (Castro 84’ 6), Hyndman 7, Damm 6 (Adams 70’ 5), Moreno 5 (Jahn 61’ 6), Mulraney 6 (Wyke 70’ 6), Gallagher 6.
Unused subs: Kann, Meza, Campbell, Remedi, Wolff.
NEW YORK RED BULLS: Meara 6, Duncan 7, Parker 7, Tarek 6, Pendant 6, Davis 6 (Yearwood 77’ 7), Rzatkowski 7 (Nealis 83’ 6), Clark 8 (Stroud 66’ 6), Tetteh 7 (Valot 67’ 6), Royer 7, Barlow 6 (White 83’ 6).
Unused subs: Jensen, Egbo, Lema, Jørgensen.
SHOTS: 8 – 5
SHOTS ON TARGET: 1 – 2
CORNERS: 7 – 1
OFFSIDES: 2 – 2
FOULS: 11 – 13
YELLOW/ CARDS: 2 – 2
RED CARDS: 0 – 0
POSSESSION: 56% – 44%