NYCFC Atlanta United Game Preview: How to watch, stream NYCFC play in Atlanta on Decision Day

It’s game day 34, and New York FC take on Atlanta United in a Decision Day contest that’s already decided: NYCFC will move on to the MLS Cup playoffs after the match ends, and 11th-placed Atlanta head home.

NYCFC has something at stake. New York City needs a win or a draw to secure the third seed in the playoffs. Atlanta will play for pride and to entertain the home crowd in what could be the last game talisman Josef Martínez plays for the Five Stripes.

The head-to-head between these clubs is a tied 4-4-4. New York City has a slight advantage in goals, with 19 scored and 17 allowed. Atlanta has a decisive location advantage: NYCFC has never won at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Match: NYCFC vs. City of Orlando

Date and time: Sunday, October 9, 2:30 p.m. ET

Location: Mercedes Benz Arena in Atlanta, Georgia

Bruce Arena Forecast: It doesn’t matter because the Benz is a closed environment, like Biosphere 2 with plastic grass

Watch: YES, ESPN+ (restrictions apply)

Flow: APP YES

Listen: programs in English and Spanish on NYCFC Radio

• Availability of players: No injuries, no suspensions. Once again, the NYCFC is full and interim head coach Nick Cushing can push all the magnets around his whiteboard to determine the best starting XI. Nonetheless, Alfredo Morales, Keaton Parks and Anton Tinnerholm are unlikely to make it through the full 90 minutes as they have only returned from injury.

Will Cushing stay with Callens’ back three Maxime Chanot and Thiago Martins? Veteran defenders provide the backbone of NYCFC’s late-season push, freeing up the offense to do damage.

• In the pre-match press conference, Cushing said he could stay with the side that performed so well in wins over Atlas FC, New Jersey Red Bulls and Orlando City. Or he could change it before the playoffs start. He said momentum is important, but try new things. “As a coach you have to bounce between fit and fresh,” Cushing said.

• Also revealed in the pre-match press conference: Callens was a striker until he was 14 or 15 when he moved to defence. It explains a lot.

• Good news for Alex Callens, Morales and Santiago Rodríguez, who are all one yellow card away from serving a suspension: according to MLS rules, “thresholds for the accumulation of yellow cards for players, coaches and team officials team are reset to enter the Audi MLS Cup playoffs. They will start the playoffs with a clean slate no matter what happens at the Benz.

• NYCFC may be feeling a little reluctant after letting Atlanta steal the 86th-minute draw when the two teams met in the Bronx on July 4. Taty Castellanos scored twice in this game. Good time.

• NYCFC will monitor the remaining scores on decision day. Third through seventh place are on the line, and while New York is guaranteed a ‘home’ game at Red Bull Arena next week, it won’t be clear who the opponent will be until the Conference matches. East doesn’t end around 5 p.m. ET. FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami, Columbus Crew and Orlando are all possibilities to enter this matchday.

• This will be New York’s last game Ian Joy and Joe Tolleson call YES. While the network hasn’t always been the most caring partner for NYCFC, Joy and Tolleson are the best in the business – we’re lucky they’ve been the voices of this club from day one. Ian to Joe, we love you and will miss you.

• Will dysfunctional Atlanta bring the fight to this game? Maybe players have already packed their bags and have their Brazilian beach rentals in mind. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this week’s workouts are loose. “It’s not the same, obviously,” the article quoted manager Gonzalo Pineda as saying. “But we have to do what we have to do. We have to go through the sessions. The sessions went well. So just trying to keep going and trying to get the team ready for Sunday.

Santiago Sosa has been suspended by MLS for three games after using a homophobic slur during the October 1 game against the New England Revolution. The 23-year-old midfielder is a regular starter and has appeared in 21 of Atlanta’s games this year. Sosa will also miss the first two MLS league games of the 2023 season.

• Still, Atlanta won’t be easy. This team held the Philadelphia Union to a 0-0 draw on September 17 in a game they should have won: Atlanta largely outplayed the Eastern Conference leaders, foreshadowing the Union’s 4-0 loss against Charlotte FC the following week.

• Atlanta playmaker Thiago Almada will want to impress. The Argentine has been called up for the international break and has a good chance of making the 2022 FIFA World Cup squad – team-mate Lionel Messi had good things to say about him. It will be his last competitive game before the start of the tournament, unless the club sells him or accepts a short-term loan.

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Update: The starting XI was announced at 2:03 p.m. ET

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