NYCFC players celebrate Alex Callens’ goal. (Jonathan Jones-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Taty Castellanos and Alex Callens tallied to break a scoreless tie to boost City to a 2-0 first-round victory over Atlanta United in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs at Yankee Stadium Sunday.

The Cityzens’ prize? A meeting with the New England Revolution, the Supporter Shield winners, in Foxborough, Mass. on Nov. 30.

In its previous five postseason appearances, City failed to win any of its series en route to a disappointing 2-6 mark.

“I’m so proud of the boys today,” head coach Ronny Deila said. The intensity and pressure was unbelievable. They didn’t didn’t create anything. You can’t say anything negative when you’re winning 2-0.”

NYCFC found the net twice off of plays created by corner kicks as the hosts caught the opposition napping on both sequences.

On the first goal, Maxi Moralez did a quick one-two with Jesus Medina on the right side. He then sent a cross to Castellanos. The MLS Golden Boot winner smashed a hard shot with his right foot that traveled to the far post before bouncing into the net past a stunned goalkeeper, Brad Guzan.

“The ball was coming at me so I had to hit it, whichever way it came,” Castellanos said. “So it doesn’t matter if I hit it right or wrong. It still went in. But I’m just really happy for the goal street that I’m going through right now.”

“He’s flying,” Deila said of Castellanos, who tallied 19 goals during the regular season. “Done that the whole season almost. He is dangerous inside the box. He has confidence and we have a team that play up in good situations. I say always that is nobody shines alone. When the team’s is a good and everybody shines. That’s what the team is doing now.”

Smelling blood in the water, NYCFC pressured the visitors and their aggressiveness paid off in the 53rd minute. This time Moralez drilled a hard shot that Guzan saved, deflecting the ball off the woodwork. An unmarked Callens, a late decision to be added to the Starting XI after returning from World Cup qualifying with an injury, found himself in front of the net and headed it in from close range for a two-goal advantage.

“Many emotions scoring the goal,” Callens said. “A lot of hard work went behind it. I had a big team behind me, a lot of people behind me so it’s really I’m really happy for it.”

Understanding that the best defense was its offense, City continued to apply pressure on Atlanta the rest of the way.

Three minutes into second-half stoppage time, Alan Franco was sent off with a red card after receiving his second yellow of the match.

Atlanta held its own in the early going before NYCFC found itself and had the better scoring chances in the first half.

In fact, those opportunities came in the final 10 minutes.

Alfredo Morales tried testing Guzan from long distance in the 39th minute as the veteran goalie parried the ball away with his left hand for a corner kick.

NYCFC put the ball into the net in the 44th minute, but after a VAR review, it was confirmed that Santi Rodriguez was offside.

Two minutes into first-half injury time, Castellanos headed a free kick straight to Guzan.

After NYCFC had taken a 2-0 lead, striker Josef Martinez, who rarely touched the ball in dangerous situations for most of the afternoon, found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who knocked the shot away in the 61st minute.