HANOVER, N.J. — Let’s face it. If the Red Bulls have any chance of making up a three-goal deficit and advance to MLS Cup, they must play a perfect or near perfect game against Atlanta United Thursday night.

They enter second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference final on the short end of a 3-0 score and trying to score at least three goals and conceding none against one of the best teams in the league at Red Bull Arena.

“We just have to prepare a little bit differently and be really aggressive and understand that it has to be disciplined and calculated,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas told reporters after practice at the Red Bull Training Center. We prepare a game-plan that makes sense and usually you don’t know exactly what you need to do, so that helps a little bit.”

Added defender Michael Murillo: “Yeah, obviously it is going to be tough, especially against that team. They are so tough and so good especially with the counter attack, but if we give one hundred percent and all of the team is completely aligned, we feel as if we can get the results that we need, obviously it is not ideal, but we know what this team is capable of and what we are able to do out there.”

In other words, it is a question of balance. The Red Bulls can’t afford to make any mistakes.

“It always is, whether it is Atlanta or any other team in the league that has potent attackers,” Armas said. “Now with this scenario it is really important to balance it out and to not get too ahead of ourselves and understand how to put out some fires and mitigate what we are trying to do out there. It is really important to calculate an approach and a mature approach understanding the way they play, the structure they play, and the attackers they have from the start of the game. … We are going to go about it in a really intelligent way.”

It will come down to how quickly the Red Bulls can score the first goal of the match to give them some much-needed momentum. The longer they take, the more problematic the match will be.

“Yeah, obviously it is going to be important for us to score first, especially early, because once we do that it will add, added pressure on them,” Murillo said. “Once we have that momentum going in, but scoring first is going to be really key for us.”

“It is pretty clear that we have to come out and be aggressive and try and get on the front foot as early as possible,” midfielder Alex Muyl said. “The task isn’t going to be easy, but it is clear at least and at home where we have been very good, and we have shown that we can beat them. Obviously, we didn’t do ourselves any favors and we didn’t expect that outcome at all nor in our wildest dreams did we think that that would happen, but I think now we know what we have to do, and we are going to have to try and do that.”