Major League Soccer

Atlanta United-Red Bulls Preview

Atlanta United FC's historic run of success has the defending champs back in the mix within the Eastern Conference.

After posting a league-record five straight shutout victories, visiting Atlanta tries to stay hot Sunday against the New York Red Bulls in a rematch of last season's conference final.

Atlanta (6-3-2) did not win its first match of 2019 until April 13, and was 1-3-2 before outscoring its opponents 8-0 during the current five-game winning streak. United continued its stretch of five matches over 15 days with a 1-0 victory at Vancouver on Wednesday. Josef Martinez's successful penalty kick on 29 minutes was all the visitor's needed to prevail and make MLS history.

"I think the spirit, the energy and the chemistry within the team. You can see the confidence is growing," coach Frank De Boer told Atlanta's official website. "Everyone knows their role. They want to work for each other and they understand each other better. It's been fun to watch."

This current surge also has United entering the weekend third in Eastern Conference. And, again poised to enjoy the type of season it did while en route to the MLS Cup crown.

"When we defend with 11 guys, we're difficult to break down, we're difficult to beat," said Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan, who has six clean sheets and made 23 saves this season.

While Guzan and United have done a good job of keeping their opponents off the score sheet of late, the club will try a fourth time to record its first road goal against New York. Atlanta has been outscored 3-0 while going 0-2-1 at Red Bull Arena. That included the second leg of last season's conference final, which Atlanta lost 1-0, but ended up beating the Red Bulls 3-1 on aggregate.

Like United, New York (4-5-2) struggled through the first 1 ½ months of the season, going 1-4-2 before its recent turnaround. The Red Bulls totaled eight goals through the first seven matches of 2019, but have equaled that mark while winning three of the last four.

Cristian Casseres Jr. opened the scoring in the 12th minute last weekend at FC Dallas. Sean Nealis then snapped a 1-1 tie early in the second half and Brian White added some insurance in the 85th minute of a 3-1 road victory.

"(The) beginning of the season is very different from right now," coach Chris Armas told the Red Bulls' official website. "We see some very consistent performances in the last few (games)."

In a testament, perhaps, to New York's depth, 12 different players have scored the club's 16 goals.

Martinez, meanwhile, has scored three of his five MLS goals in the last two road matches for Atlanta. United can match a team record with a fourth consecutive road win Sunday.

Updated May 17, 2019

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