Castellanos, NYCFC best Atlanta in MLS playoffs


Major League Soccer Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos scored his first MLS Cup playoff goal in the 49th minute to lead New York City FC to a 2-0 home victory in Sunday’s Round 1 clash against Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium. Defender Alexander Callens added his second goal of 2021 in all competitions in the 53rd minute for NYCFC, who advances in the postseason for just the second time in the club’s seven-year club history.

Sean Johnson made four saves to preserve his second career playoff clean sheet, and his first since 2017, with all of his saves coming after the hosts took a two-goal lead.

Maximiliano Moralez, NYCFC’s 34-year-old captain, played a role on both New York City FC goals.

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On the first, his long looping cross from the right fell to the back post for Castellanos, who struck a first-time volley into the ground. Castellanos did not connect as he intended, but the ball bounded hard off the turf, over Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan and into the net.

Guzan made an excellent diving stop to deny Moralez from distance four minutes later. But after pushing the ball onto the post, Callens was there to head the rebound into an open goal from close range.

Four seed NYCFC will visit Eastern Conference top seed and Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution in a conference semifinal on Nov. 30.

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