Josef Martinez, Franco Escobar and Hector Villalba scored and Atlanta United blew out the Supporters’ Shield-winning New York Red Bulls 3-0 on Sunday in the opening leg of the Eastern Conference final.

Atlanta gave itself a huge edge heading into the second leg Thursday night in Harrison, New Jersey. The winner of the two-game, cumulative-goals series will host the MLS Cup final Dec. 8 against Portland or Sporting Kansas City.

Before a crowd of 70,016 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, United defeated the Red Bulls for the first time in franchise history after three losses and a draw in their previous meetings. Atlanta also gave itself a bit of redemption after losing the Supporters’ Shield to New York on the final day of the regular season.

Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) reacts after scoring a goal during the second half of an MLS soccer playoff game against New York Red Bulls Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 3-0. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) reacts after scoring a goal during the second half of an MLS soccer playoff game against New York Red Bulls Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 3-0. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

A matchup between the two best teams in MLS was a one-sided affair. Atlanta dominated much of the game and could have won by an even bigger margin. While a New York goal was waved off after a video review and goalkeeper Brad Guzan made a big save in the closing minutes, this game was played mostly in the Red Bulls’ end of the field.

TIMBERS 0, SPORTING KC 0, TIE

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez reacts after scoring a goal against past New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles during the first half in their Eastern Conference finals MLS soccer match on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. United won the match 3-0. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez reacts after scoring a goal against past New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles during the first half in their Eastern Conference finals MLS soccer match on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. United won the match 3-0. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Tim Melia made six saves and Sporting Kansas City survived Portland’s aggressive attack for the draw in the opening leg of the Western Conference finals.

The Timbers outshot Sporting 14-9 and had six shots on target but couldn’t break through. Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made one save. The teams now head to Kansas City for the second leg on Thursday night.

Source: The Associated Press

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