Recap: NYCFC on brink of clinching top seed in the East after 4-1 win over Atlanta United

NYCFC cruised over Atlanta United with a strong first half Wednesday in the Bronx. (
NYCFC Goals: Mitriță 14', 23 & 34', Héber 87
Atlanta Goals: Martinez 53'
Quick Summary
Alexandru Mitriță netted a 20-minute first half hat-trick to end New York City FC's regular-season home campaign in perfect style.
On Fan Appreciation Night at Yankee Stadium, NYCFC defeated reigning-champions Atlanta United, 4-1, to all but secure CONCACAF Champions League qualification.
Match Recap
Unbeaten in eight matches, NYCFC locked horns with the defending champions in confident mood, but they would have to overcome Frank de Boer's side without two influential players.
Keaton Parks and Anton Tinnerholm were both casualties of a bruising showdown with FC Dallas at the weekend and were unable to take part, meaning, Sebastien Ibeagha, Tony Rocha and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi came into the side.
Atlanta arrived in the Bronx on the back of successive wins vs. FC Cincinnati and San Jose and were fighting to keep up their hopes of clinching top spot in the East and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
A competitive opening 10' saw NYC give up one good chance for Atlanta but after they skewed a presentable shot wide, Mitriță took over.
On 14', the Romanian opened his account for the night with his 10th goal of the season after darting in from the left side and curling an unstoppable shot into the upper 90, past Brad Guzan.
Just nine minutes later, he was at it again, this time delivering his shot low to the near post where it clipped the woodwork before nestling into the back of the net.
His hat-trick was completed on 34' when Alexandru reacted first after Guzan spilled Tajouri-Shradi's goalbound shot and tapped home the rebound to send the Bronx into raptures.
There was a chance for a fourth goal just before the half-time break when Florentin Pogba barreled over Moralez for a clear penalty.
Maxi stepped up for the PK but dragged his shot wide, meaning City had to be content with a 3-0 lead going in for the interval.
Down but not out, Atlanta hit back early in the second half from the penalty spot after Maxime Chanot was adjudged to have committed a foul in the box.
On 63', Mitri earned a standing ovation when he was withdrawn, giving Héber the opportunity to get minutes back in his legs after his hamstring injury.
Just when it looked like the game might peter out at 3-1, Héber came up with the icing on top, tenaciously running down a long ball over the top and rounding Guzan before slotting in.
That made it 4-1, ending the regular season in the BX in style and sending City into their final two road games on strong footing. Man of the Match
Who else? It was Alexandru's night from the 34th minute onwards after he became the third player in NYCFC history to score a hat trick, following Frank Lampard and David Villa.
The first Romanian to score a hat trick in MLS, Mitri put on a finishing clinic in the first half, scoring his 10th, 11th and 12th goals of his first season.
How We Lined Up
NYCFC XI | Johnson, Ibeagha, Chanot, Callens, Matarrita, Ring (C), Rocha, Moralez, Tajouri-Shradi, Mitriță, Castellanos
What's Next
NYCFC's penultimate game of the regular season is this Sunday vs. the New England Revolution at 5pm ET.