Welcome to your match thread for a Friday night Southeast Showdown (*must credit The Mane Land PawedCast) as Orlando City hosts Atlanta United. Much like Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day got pretty sick of Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowski), we’re getting pretty sick of the same result whenever the Lions play Atlanta. Hell, I’d even offer to move to Punxsutawney, PA if I thought it would help.
It still can’t be called a rivalry until Orlando City gets on the board in this series. The Lions need these three points more than Atlanta, but do they have the quality to go and get them? If it is to happen, they’ll have to fix the power.
Orlando City is 0-5-2 in the all-time MLS series (0-6-2 in all competitions) and 0-3-0 at home (0-4-0 in all competitions), which is objectively a terrible record against any opponent. Someone please wake up the law of averages.
The most recent meeting between the two teams occurred only 17 days ago at Exploria Stadium. In that match, Orlando failed to score and lost 2-0, getting bounced from the U.S. Open Cup in the semifinals.
The teams last met in league play on Mother’s Day, with Atlanta United hosting and taking a 1-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Pity Martinez couldn’t score on anyone up until then so obviously he scored the goal. So, if you’re keeping track, that’s Atlanta 3, Orlando City 0 in two previous competitive matches this season.
Atlanta won at the stadium then known as Orlando City Stadium on Aug. 24 of last year by a 2-1 final score. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez bundled home a rebound off Joe Bendik, who misplayed Ezequiel Barco’s free kick to open the scoring just 21 minutes in. Scott Sutter tied the game just before the half, but Josef Martinez broke the deadlock in the second half, with only 16 minutes remaining in normal time.
Atlanta easily claimed the June 30, 2018 meeting at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 4-0. Josef Martinez and Barco scored a goal apiece and Almiron added a brace. Orlando lost the first match-up of 2018, 2-1, back on May 13. An early penalty on a Cristian Higuita foul gave the visitors a leg up on a Josef Martinez goal from the spot and Barco doubled the lead before halftime. Justin Meram — now with Atlanta — scored his first goal as a Lion to pull one back but Orlando could get no closer. The unfortunate ending with a shower of debris coming out of the stands due to dissatisfaction with referee Alan Kelly’s decisions that night may have killed the Lions’ hopes for a dramatic equalizer.
The Lions might have picked up a few more points against Atlanta if not for the existence of Hector Villalba. His two late goals in the first two meetings turned a draw and a win into a loss and a draw. The two teams kicked off their series with Orlando suffering a late 1-0 loss at home on July 21, 2017. Villalba found the net in the 86th minute to ruin what was a pretty good performance by the Lions, despite the dearth of goals. Villalba then scored a stoppage-time tally to rescue a 1-1 draw for Atlanta in the second meeting on July 29, 2017. Kaká scored one of his best 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 with a 3-3 draw in Atlanta that September. Dom Dwyer scored his first brace as a Lion (in MLS, anyway) and also assisted on Cyle Larin’s goal. Martinez’s hat trick spoiled Orlando’s bid to take all three points.
The Lions are 6-6-1 at home this season while Atlanta is 4-8-0 on the road. The Lions are 2-0-2 in their last four games overall, while tonight’s visitors have won five of their last six matches (5-1-0). Atlanta has surged to the top of the Eastern Conference after a sluggish start under new coach Frank de Boer.
In recent matches, Orlando has come out strong defensively but has offered very little getting forward. To the Lions’ credit, they’ve been efficient with the few chances they’ve created but those will be at a premium tonight. Orlando must not assume it can hold off the Atlanta attack, nor that it can win with only one goal. City must maintain more possession than it did Saturday night and take advantage of scoring opportunities.
The Lions can’t just try to contain Josef Martinez, as Atlanta has plenty of other weapons. Notably, Julian Gressel has played well in this series, as has Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martinez. And they can’t sleep on former Orlando City winger Justin Meram.
Orlando may be getting closer to the return of midfielder Cristian Higuita (hamstring) but that’s probably not happening tonight. Starting fullbacks Joao Moutinho (hamstring) and Ruan (hamstring) are out. For the visitors, ex-Lion Brek Shea (right knee), forward Brandon Vazquez (left hip), midfielder Eric Remedi (right hip), and defender Franco Escobar (leg) are listed as out, while former Orlando City fullback Mikey Ambrose (hamstring) is questionable.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more background on Atlanta United through Sydney Hunte from SBNation’s Dirty South Soccer.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions.
Orlando City (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Brian Rowe.
Defenders: Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Kyle Smith.
Midfielders: Uri Rosell, Mauricio Pereyra, Carlos Ascues,
Forwards: Nani, Tesho Akindele, Benji Michel.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Shane O’Neill, Sacha Kljestan, Sebas Mendez, Will Johnson. Dom Dwyer, Chris Mueller.
Atlanta United (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Defenders: Florentin Pogba, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Miles Robinson, Julian Gressel.
Midfielders: Ezequiel Barco, Eric Remedi, Darlington Nagbe.
Forwards: Justin Meram, Josef Martinez, Pity Martinez.
Bench: Alec Kann, Michael Parkhurst, Hector Villalba, Emerson Hyndman, Mo Adams, Jeff Larentowicz, Dion Pereira.
Ref: Nima Saghafi.
AR1: Kathryn Nesbitt.
AR2: Corey Parker.
4th: Kevin Broadley.
VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero.
AVAR: Jozef Batko.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes.
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), Acción 97.9 FM (Spanish), 810 AM.
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Enjoy the match! Go City!