Serge Ngoma’s late winner gives Red Bulls 2-1 comeback win over Atlanta United

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Serge Ngoma’s late winner, his first career MLS goal gave the New York Red Bulls a late 2-1 comeback win over Atlanta United, and a tie atop the Eastern Conference. After a tight and at times lethargic first half, all the action picked up in the second half. Josef Martinez cleaned up a goal mouth scramble for the opening goal. Lewis Morgan scored a penalty after substitute Luquinhas was brought down in the box. And 16-year-old Serge Ngoma scored the late winner, his first career MLS goal to give the Red Bulls a share of first place in the Eastern Conference. Make that five home wins in a row for the Red Bulls, and back-to-back 2-1 defeats for Atlanta United.

Serge Ngoma’s late winner secures Red Bulls comeback win

Team News

Aaron Long is back in the starting lineup after clearing health and safety protocols, he missed last weeks 2-0 lost at LAFC. Luquinhas, who also missed the match, is back with the team on the bench. Cameron Harper gets his first league start since May, over the suspended Dylan Nealis. Patryk Klimala is the lone striker in attack. Red Bulls II defender Juan Castillo was signed on a short-term loan for this match.

Gonzalo Pineda makes a few changes to the team that lost 2-1 at Toronto FC. Alex De John is in defense, while Matheus Rossetto and Amar Sejdic are in midfield over Emerson Hyndman and Marcelino Moreno. Ronaldo Cisneros partners Luis Araujo up top, Josef Martinez is on the bench.

Red Bulls lineup (3-4-3): Carlos Coronel; Sean Nealis, Aaron Long, Tom Edwards; John Tolkin Cristian Casseres Jr, Frankie Amaya, Cameron Harper; Lewis Morgan, Omir Fernandez, Patryk Klimala

New York subs: Ryan Meara, Juan Castillo, Jason Pendant, Steven Sserwadda, Luquinhas, Dru Yearwood, Serge Ngoma, Tom Barlow, Zach Ryan

Atlanta lineup (5-3-2): Rocco Novo; Caleb Wiley, George Campbell, Alex De John, Alan Franco, Aiden McFadden; Amar Sejdic, Franco Ibarra, Mattheus Rossetto; Luiz Araujo, Ronaldo Cisneros

Five Stripes subs: Bobby Shuttleworth, Mikey Ambrose, Marcelino Moreno, Emerson Hyndman, Dom Dwyer, Josef Martinez, Machop Chol

First Half: Atlanta the better side in cagey first half

This opening 45 minutes were very quiet from both sides. Atlanta were dominant in possession at 63%, at times passing the ball around without any pressure. New York simply couldn’t get out of first gear, and looked flat for most of the opening frame. Of the seven shots New York had, most were either blocked or missed.

Atlanta had the better of the chances, Cisneros missed one high, while Araujo stung the gloves of Coronel and missed a close shot wide of goal. Just one shot on target for each team, in a first half that lacked a lot. The Expected Goals tally was in slight favor of New York, 0.40-0.34, but in short, the Red Bulls needed a spark in that first half. Much credit goes to the away side for pushing the action and causing issues to New York. It’s clear that Luquinhas’ creativity and technical quality was missing for the hosts, while Atlanta certainly could’ve used Martinez’s classy finishing prowess.

Second Half: Serge Ngoma seals incredible Red Bulls comeback win

Much of what happened in the first half, followed soon in the second. Cisneros had a great chance to open the scoring after a terrific passing move, but Coronel was equal to it with another fine save. Tom Barlow and Luquinhas entered the match in the 57th minute, for Klimala and Harper respectively. Klimala was noticeably upset at being pulled, throwing a bib in frustration. Josef Martinez came into the game, replacing Cisneros in the 63rd minute. Youngster Serge Ngoma came on for Omir Fernandez in the 69th minute.

New York started gaining momentum as Ngoma found good positions and combined with Luquinhas at times. Emerson Hyndman entered the match for Sejdic in the 73rd minute. Then, the breakthrough in the 75th minute. Wiley found himself onside, tossed one to Hyndman, whose header from the back post found saw a shot blocked on the line only for Martinez to follow up for the score. It’s the first goal Atlanta have ever scored at Red Bull Arena. Just the third goal of the year for the Venezuelan forward. Tom Edwards was injured on the play, Steven Sserwadda

Minutes later, the Red Bulls would earn a penalty. Wiley brought down Luquinhas down the end line, an easy call for referee Alex Chilowicz. Novo got a yellow card for dissent, Morgan stepped up and slotted it home for the equalizer.

Then another moment, the go-ahead goal. Young Serge Ngoma capitalized on a turnover and finished past Novo with smoothness to give the Red Bulls a late lead, his first career MLS goal.

After multiple fouls and stoppages, the final whistle blew. A great comeback win for the Red Bulls.

Three Takeaways from New York Red Bulls vs Atlanta United

Young Serge Ngoma the hero. The 16-year-old just up the road from North Plainfield, with his family in the stands, seals a moment he’ll never forget. The third-youngest player in MLS history to score a game-winning goal. He had just returned from a lengthy hamstring injury spell, about seven weeks away from the team. Then comes on as a substitute and seals a huge three points. He also joins club legend Eddie Gaven and Jozy Altidore as the only 16-year-olds to score for the club. It’s the stuff Red Bull dreams are made of.

Atlanta’s woes continues. When it rains, it pours, and when it’s hot, it burns and all of that happened to Atlanta in this game. They played so well to boot, confusing the Red Bulls with their back-five system and possession movements. One could argue they deserved more, but when you need to make your own luck in this league. And right now, they’re falling short. You can talk about injuries and key players missing, but it’s a second consecutive 2-1 defeat and another road loss. Gonzalo Pineda will be looking for something, any sort of quick solution next game at NYCFC.

The Eastern Conference is an absolute beast. Just look at the table, it’s an absolute battle of attrition. Not many expected Montreal to be tied for first, the Red Bulls are doing better than most have thought. Philadelphia could’ve been breezing past everyone had it not been for all the draws, but they’re in the mix. NYCFC are the reigning MLS Cup champs, but are slumping a but under their new manager. Who saw FC Cincinnati there in a playoff spot? And don’t sleep on New England just yet. It’s all great drama for the first half of the season, and surely the second half will be just as entertaining to see how this all unfolds.

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