Welcome to your match thread for tonight’s match-up between Orlando City (6-2-1, 18 points) and Atlanta United (7-2-1, 22 points) at Orlando City Stadium. It’s the first of the three scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals this season, with the Lions visiting Atlanta on June 30 and hosting the finale of the season series on Aug. 24.
The two sides are separated by three points in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference standings with Orlando City holding a game in hand, although AUFC has a hefty +11 goal differential compared to the Lions’ +5 at this point in the season.
The Lions are 0-1-2 in the fledgling series, but came within a few minutes of being 1-0-2 if not for two very two late Hector Villalba goals in the first two meetings, which turned a draw and a win into a loss and a draw. The two teams kicked off their first ever season series with Orlando suffering a horrifying late 1-0 loss at home on July 21, 2017. Villalba found the net in minute 86 to ruin what was a pretty good performance by the Lions, despite the dearth of goals. Villalba proved that he was indeed the man Orlando fans should direct all hate towards when his stoppage-time tally rescued a 1-1 draw for Atlanta in the second meeting on July 29. Kaká scored one of his best ever goals as a Lion in that match to provide Orlando’s tally.
Orlando City became the first visiting team to take any points out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season with an exciting 3-3 draw in Atlanta last September. Dom Dwyer scored his first brace as a Lion (in MLS, anyway) and also assisted on Cyle Larin’s goal. Josef Martinez’s hat trick spoiled Orlando’s bid to take all three points.
The Lions are 4-1-1 at home this season while Atlanta is 3-1-0 away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Orlando City rides a six-game winning streak into this weekend, while Atlanta saw its eight-game unbeaten stretch come to an end Wednesday at Sporting Kansas City — in large part due to goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s red card in the 34th minute. SKC went on to win, 2-0, and Guzan will sit this weekend’s game out.
Atlanta has numerous star players, but attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron is the man to whom Orlando must pay the most attention. He leads MLS in shot attempts (53) and has figured in 11 (six goals, five assists) of Atlanta’s 23 goals on the year. Josef Martinez is another obvious nemesis with his hat trick last year in the third meeting and his league-leading seven goals — one ahead of Dwyer. Villalba also has a flair for the dramatic against Orlando City.
Watch for Atlanta to try to control the play and push the tempo whenever it has the ball. The visitors will have more speed in the attack than anyone the Lions have faced this season and a number of good finishers. Giving the ball away in the midfield could be lethal against Atlanta’s quick counter, and the addition of Darlington Nagbe during the off-season makes it difficult to take away the ball from Atlanta in the midfield. Whichever midfield can exert its will over the other should have a leg up in this game.
Orlando City will likely continue on without defenders Scott Sutter (knee) and Jonathan Spector (concussion) yet again. Spector is listed as out while Sutter is day-to-day. Amro Tarek (lower body) is also day-to-day but began participating fully in training during the midweek. For Atlanta, Guzan is suspended while both backup goalkeepers — Mitch Hildebrandt and Alec Kann — are listed as out on the MLS injury page, but that could be out of date, as manager Tata Martino said he expects one of the two to be ready. Chris McCann (hamstring) and Franco Escobar (chest) are not expected to be available.
Mandatory Match #Content
Here's your mandatory match content for tonight:
- Our Intelligence Report gives more info about the Five Stripes from Haris Kruskic from SB Nation’s Atlanta United blog, Dirty South Soccer.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions, plus our exclusive interview with Orlando City defender Chris Schuler, who made his debut with the Lions last Sunday.
- Our Ben Miller gives you his three keys to an Orlando City victory in this weekend’s huge match-up.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Joe Bendik.
Defenders: Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Lamine Sané, Will Johnson.
Defensive Midfielders: Yoshimar Yotun, Cristian Higuita.
Attacking Midfielders: Justin Meram, Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller.
Forward: Dom Dwyer.
Bench: Earl Edwards Jr., RJ Allen, Chris Schuler, Oriol Rosell, Richie Laryea, Stefano Pinho, Josué Colmán.
Atlanta United (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Alec Kann.
Defenders: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Miles Robinson.
Midfielders: Greg Garza, Jeff Larentowicz, Darlington Nagbe, Julian Gressel.
Forwards: Miguel Almiron. Ezequiel Barco, Josef Martinez.
Bench: Mitch Hildebrandt, Sal Zizzo, Kevin Kratz, Hector Villalba, Brandon Vazquez, Romario Williams, Mikey Ambrose.
Ref: Alan Kelly.
AR1: Matthew Nelson.
AR2: Ian Anderson.
4th: Guido Gonzales.
VAR: Dave Gantar.
How to Watch
Match Time: 6 p.m. ET.
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: FOX Sports 1, FOX Deportes.
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), La Nueva 990 (Spanish).
Streaming: ESPN+, FOX Sports GO.
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