Orlando City has never defeated Atlanta United in a history between the two clubs that is short in duration but long in drama. I attended the match at Bobby Dodd Stadium last year when Kaká scored an unbelievable goal and Atlanta drew in stoppage time. The rivalry certainly carries the right emotions when these two teams meet, but with Orlando winless, some will begin to question said rivalry. Orlando meets Atlanta on Aug. 24 in the final match between the two this season, so what does Orlando have to do to defeat its most bitter rival?
Don’t Make Silly Mistakes
Making unnecesary mistakes has killed Orlando City in every single match against the Five Stripes. For example, in the 4-0 loss earlier this season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Lions conceded nine fouls and only shot on goal one-third of the time. Individual errors, such as midfield turnovers, also played a major role in the loss which resulted in a poor overall team effort. Fixing silly mistakes against tough opposition is a must to defeat a high-powered side like Atlanta United. Preventing silly mistakes such as poor passes, weak finishing, and bad defending will go a long way to help Orlando achieve victory this Friday.
Contain Atlanta United Offense
Yes, this is much easier said than done. When you are facing the likes of Miguel Almíron, Josef Martinez, and Julian Gressel, it is difficult not to concede goals to the MLS scoring leaders. Defensively, Orlando City has been the worst team in terms of goals conceded and Atlanta took advantage of that in the first two matches. Orlando has to find a way to at least contain Atlanta’s offensive juggernauts in order to keep pace with them. To do so, the Lions must control possession and prevent counter-attacks, both of which have been issues for the Lions all season.
Get Dom Dwyer Into Space
In the first two games between the two clubs this season, Dom Dwyer did not find the back of the net. Dwyer took one shot on target in both bouts this season, so clearly he has not seen the amount of action he would usually see against other opposition. This is probably a pretty obvious statement, but when your leading scorer takes one shot on goal against the Eastern Conference leaders, the results are going to look like they did. Getting Dwyer into space and allowing him to do what he does best will go a long way in helping Orlando City defeat Atlanta.
Take Advantage of Being at Home
Orlando City has been a much better team at home than it has been on the road this season, which is the league norm. The Lions are currently on a nine-game losing streak away from Orlando City Stadium, but with this upcoming match in Orlando, the Lions need to take advantage of being in front of their home crowd. Orlando is 5-5-2 at home this season and has flat out looked better on the pitch while in central Florida. The first game between the teams was in Orlando and it was a match that the Lions could have won but fell just short. Meanwhile, the Lions got thrashed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the second meeting, so clearly home-field advantage plays a big part for both teams. Atlanta is 7-2-2 away from home this season and has a win in Orlando already, but if the Lions can get on the scoreboard early and get the crowd into it, the momentum will easily go towards Orlando City.
Atlanta is arguably the best team in MLS this season. Atlanta and Orlando are separated by 25 points, but both teams need a victory for different reasons. Atlanta is all but in the playoffs but tussling for positioning atop the Eastern Conference while Orlando is 10 points behind the Montreal Impact for the final playoff spot. Every game is a must-win for Orlando City at this point and if it can find a way to tame the beast that has haunted it for two years, maybe the team will begin to trend in the right direction.