Derrick Etienne (left) and Daniel Royer go bump in the night as they celebrate the latter’s tying goal in the Red Bulls’ win (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)
ATLANTA — The Red Bulls might have been down, but they certainly were not out Sunday.
Only four days after being shown the door of the CONCACAF Champions League by the Vancouver Whitecaps, New York found itself facing a one-goal deficit entering the final 15 minutes of its Major League Soccer season opener against Atlanta United.
The visitors showed great resilence, striking for two late goals to rebound for a 2-1 win over the expansion team’s first win at
“As the game wore on, things were getting desperate but nobody looked nervous and nobody looked like they were going to lose that game,” Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan said. “I feel like we looked around at each other and everybody had a feeling that we would make something happen. At least get a tie.”
The Red Bulls walked out of Bobby Dowd Stadium with more than that — three points and a restored confidence in the team before 55,000 fans.
“The best thing we can take away is our will to win and our will to keep fighting,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said.
Especially down the stretch with time running out. Daniel Royer headed in a Kljestan corner kick in the 76th minute before an Atlanta own goal gave the Red Bulls the win on a silver platter.
It might have been the opening game for both sides, but it had an October or November feel to it given the intensity, atmosphere and crowd.
“It sure doesn’t feel like the first game of the season, that’s for sure,” Robles said. “We were just joking around that something about this game, maybe the atmosphere, the quality of the opponent, it just felt like a playoff game. Nonetheless, it’s a great way to start the season. It’s something that we can build off of.”
Especially the way the Red Bulls overcame a tough first half as United grabbed a 1-0 lead.
“Imperfect is what I would call that performance, but it’s early in the year so we are still working through getting our group sharp and getting the tactics down,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. “Atlanta tested us in a big way in the first half and we took a punch but hung in there.”
New York regrouped at halftime, trying to get its act together.
“We talked about it at halftime just giving a little bit more, being a little bit clearer tactically, making a couple adjustments but being a little bit sharper physically, putting more into the game and now taking the crowd out play by play,” Marsch said. “I thought for the most part, in the second half the effort was really good, obviously, a great comeback and a lot of spirit within the team.”