Gabriel Pereira celebrates his goal. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
New York City FC secured third place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 win over Atlanta United on MLS Decision Day at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.
Gabriel Pereira and Heber supplied the offense for the Cityzens (16-11-7, 55 points) while 11th-place United (10-14-10, 40) finished out of the money for the second time in three seasons.
The defending MLS Cup champions will begin the playoffs next week against sixth-place Inter Miami FC, hosting a home game at Red Bull Arena. Yankee Stadium will not be available for the opening round due to the Yankees involvement in the MLB playoffs.
Nine minutes after the opening kickoff, the Cityzens celebrated its first goal of the match.
Gabriel Pereira, off a nifty Talles Magno feed, chipped a left-footed shot from close range on the right side of the penalty area past goalkeeper Raul Gudino for his eighth goal this season.
It was a difficult first half for the Cityzens as they lost two players to injury – Tayvon Gray and Magno.
They were replaced by Anton Tinnerholm (18th minute) and Heber (two minutes into added time), respectively. Magno went down in the box while shooting at the Atlanta goal.
Due to the injuries, nine minutes of stoppage time was needed to close out the opening half.
Heber doubled the lead on the hour on a scoring sequence that began with Pereira’s s corner kick. Center back Alex Callens flicked the ball to an unmarked Heber, who left no doubt.
SAVAGE IN THE BOX 🎯 pic.twitter.com/kx3l1F1piV
— New York City Football Club (@NYCFC) October 9, 2022
Atlanta, however, would not go away as the hosts sliced the lead in half in the 67th minute off a pretty sequence. Thiago Almada flicked the ball to across the goalmouth to Andrew Gutman, a former Red Bull, got past goalkeeper Sean Johnson, tapping the ball home for a 2-1 score.