It's halftime of the 2018 MLS conference finals and that's bad news for the New York Red Bulls. The Eastern Conference final opened in Atlanta with United taking the first-leg 3-0. In the Western Conference, Portland and Sporting finished their opening leg 0-0.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium once again showed why it's a tough venue for the away team. Atlanta shutout the Red Bulls 3-0. Josef Martinez opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with Franco Escobar doubling the lead in the 71st. Hector Villalba added a goal five minutes into stoppage time. Brad Guzan kept the clean sheet with one save.
"We’ve got to be intense," Guzan said of the approach to the second-leg. "We can’t take our foot off the gas we can’t go up there and just defend for 90 minutes. We need to play like this from here on out and that goes for the second leg of this series and if the stars align, if we can make it to the final here, then great.We need to play like this. This was a proper performance from start to finish.”
Portland and Sporting Kansas City ended scoreless at Providence Park. The Timbers had the lead on shots 14 to 9 and put 6 of them on goal to Sporting's one.
"It puts us in a good position," Sporting KC defender Matt Besler said. "At the same time, there’s a lot of work to be done. We know that Portland’s a team that plays really well on the road with their style and they’re a dangerous team. We put in a lot of good work today. It’s halftime, and like I said, we’re in a good position. We control our own destiny and we know that we get to play in front of our fans next time, and if we win, we’re in MLS Cup.”
The conference finals conclude on Thursday. The Red Bulls host Atlanta United at 7:30pm ET on FS1. Sporting KC plays Portland at 9:30pm on ESPN. The 2018 MLS Cup is on December 8 at 8pm on Fox. The winner of the Eastern Conference final will host due to their regular season records.
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