NYCFC locks up third in East with win at Atlanta

Gabriel Pereira scored early to set the tone and New York City FC earned a 2-1 win against the host Atlanta United to lock up third place in the Eastern Conference in Sunday's regular-season finale.

Heber also scored for NYCFC (16-11-7, 55 points), which will take a three-game winning streak into the playoffs.

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Atlanta (10-14-10, 40 points), which had already been eliminated from playoff contention, got a goal from Andrew Gutman in the 67th minute.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson of NYCF made three saves, including one with less than nine minutes remaining. That's when Gutman got loose on the left side and had a good angle on the goal, but Johnson went to the turf in reaction to the sequence and redirected the ball with his right hand.

United goalkeeper Raul Gudino stopped one shot.

Pereira put NYCFC on the board in the ninth minute, with Talles Magno picking up an assist. Pereira has either a goal or an assist in four of the last five games.

It was 2-0 after Heber converted from close range in the 60th minute, with Alexander Callens providing an assist. Heber had gone four games without scoring, but he scored this one with the second touch off a corner kick.

Atlanta, which had been scrambling for much of the game, put together a nice sequence and Gutman scored from within the box by directing the ball with his left foot while he was off the ground. Thiago Almada assisted on the play by making the pinpoint delivery.

NYCFC midfielder Alfredo Morales was in action for the first time since mid-August as a substitute, a move that the team hopes will help in postseason preparations.