I don’t know about you, but most of my sleep last night was spent tossing and turning in frustration over just how close Orlando City came to beating its demons. Rivalry or not, this one stung. It was tough to watch but I think there was plenty we learned about this team after last night’s 1-0 loss to Atlanta United.
The Nightmare Continues
Once again, Orlando City couldn’t get it done against Atlanta United and it’s Josef Martinez that haunted the team with another goal. It really did feel like this time would be different after a strong first half, but it only took one moment for everything to fall apart in yet another Orlando City loss to Atlanta.
Chances were left unfinished so often that it felt like the Lions were cursed as the ball never found its way into the net for them. It hurt to watch as Orlando just could not shake its demons. It was certainly a better performance compared to the U.S. Open Cup loss and it looks like the gap between Orlando and Atlanta is closing. But none of that really matters with the bitter taste of another loss in our mouths.
Pereyra Fits In Nicely
It was Mauricio Pereyra’s first start in MLS, but he looked right at home in the Orlando City midfield. While most focus was going to be on the midfielder’s ability to orchestrate the offense with creative passes, it was nice to see him deliver hard tackles and really run out there.
Was he the difference maker who dominated the game with pinpoint passes? No, but I don’t think anyone expected him to come in and immediately be that guy. Going from the Russian league to the Orlando heat couldn’t have been easy for the 29-year-old Uruguayan but he played mostly well for an hour before Sacha Kljestan took over.
The Defense Still Deserves Some Praise
Orlando is still left searching for its first shutout against Atlanta and last night was probably the closest it’s ever come. Rookie Kamal Miller continues to impress at the left back position and looks to be a long-term asset for Orlando’s defense for years to come.
It also looks like Orlando has found the center back pairing it’s coveted for years with Robin Jansson and Lamine Sané doing well together. The duo kept Atlanta’s potent offense relatively quiet and did well to stop Martinez from making a majority of his patented runs. But at the end of the day they couldn’t stop the goal and it is a big, black mark on a decent performance. It didn’t go the defense’s way this time but the future looks bright with the playoffs still in sight.
Missed Chances Are Better Than No Chances
Here’s a weird stat for you: Including last night, the last three times Orlando out-shot its opponent, it lost 1-0. It’s certainly frustrating seeing shots go wide and clear scoring opportunities wasted and Carlos Ascues in particular had a whopping five chances in on goal during the match.
That being said, I prefer results like last night compared to the Open Cup loss where the Lions struggled to generate any offense whatsoever. The fact that Ascues had five chances to score as a defensive midfielder is at least a good sign of the team making runs and picking out passes. The Lions came out full of energy and every player seemed to have their head up and eyes open to pick out players making smart runs. It’s an optimistic take for sure and maybe I’m just ignorantly trying to see this glass as full as possible, but last night showed a lot of good aspects to Orlando’s offense.
More Dropped Points Mean Lions Will Need Help to Make the Playoffs
After a draw with Minnesota United and a close loss with Atlanta, Orlando can definitely hang with the big dogs in the league but it can’t quite beat those top dogs. Orlando has played 19 MLS games against the teams currently in a playoff position and has only won two of those games.
This team struggles to punch above its weight class and its next three matches are all against opponents with more points. Orlando must take care of business against the New England Revolution on Sept. 14 and hope that the other teams in the playoff hunt have meltdowns. The Lions are still in the race, but are being further and further removed from the driver’s seat each week.
This loss still hurts but I think there are some positives to be taken from it compared to Orlando’s previous run-ins with their supposed rival. The law of averages will eventually come into play and Orlando will get a win over Atlanta but that will have to wait until 2020 unless some truly crazy scenarios go down in the playoffs.
With no midweek games left this season, Orlando has time to collect itself before pushing forward in the final stretch of the season. What did you take away from the game? Let me know in the comments below as well as any comments on what I saw last night.