It can’t be called a rivalry until Orlando City gets on the board in this series, and this is the first time the teams have met with anything of more value than a regular-season game at stake.
Orlando City is 0-5-2 in the all-time series and 0-3-0 at home, which is objectively a terrible record against any opponent. But it’s likely we’ll forget the previous seven matches even took place if the Lions can finally taste victory against the flesh-eating monsters from Terminus. (If you watch The Walking Dead, you know.)
The teams last met 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.
Atlanta won the most recent meeting at 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 just 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 5-6-1 at home this season while Atlanta is 3-8-0 on the road. Both teams won at home on Saturday night and both played mostly first-choice players to get those victories, so it will be interesting to see who plays tonight, especially given the limitations on international players in the competition.
James O’Connor’s team got to this point by beating Memphis 901 FC 3-1 in Round 4, and then edging the New England Revolution 2-1 in the Round of 16. The Lions won the former on two Sacha Kljestan goals and Robin Jansson’s first as a Lion. The latter match was a nervy scoreless draw through normal time but Orlando got goals from Benji Michel and Akindele, then held on for dear life. Orlando City then saw a devastating late equalizer against New York City FC but advanced on penalties, 5-4, after a 1-1 draw through normal and extra time. Chris Mueller scored for Orlando in the 61st, only to see Maxi Moralez draw the Pigeons level in the dying seconds of the sixth minute of stoppage time. Adam Grinwis then stopped penalties by Alex Ring and Maxime Chanot in the shootout.
Atlanta’s path here began with a 3-1 win over the Charleston Battery after extra time in Round 4. United nipped the Columbus Crew on the road, 3-2 in the fifth round, then hosted a 2-0 win over Saint Louis FC.
Nani didn’t travel to Atlanta for the May 12 meeting due to inflammation in his calf, while Barco didn’t play in the match due to international duty. One would expect both to be present for this cup semifinal match. Orlando will be without Cristian Higuita (hamstring) and everyone else looks to be available except Santiago Patino, who is on international duty with the Colombian U-23s. For Atlanta, midfielder Kevin Kratz (calf) and former Lion Brek Shea (season-ending knee surgery) are out. Although he wasn’t listed on the injury report (which was a couple days old as of this writing), Josef Martinez appears to have also picked up a knock.
Sources confirmed that Josef Martinez did not travel to Orlando and will miss #ATLUTD's Open Cup semifinal, and provided some detail on the nature of his injury. @FelipeCar on how the team could cope without their top scorer.https://t.co/pHPVpgzQdF— The Athletic Soccer (@TheAthleticSCCR) August 6, 2019
This will likely mean the shape I project below is hogwash, but I don’t have a better one at the moment.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Last week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions. This week’s is on hold for a day, for obvious reasons. We’ll record Wednesday night and post Thursday.
Orlando City (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Adam Grinwis.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Ruan.
Midfielders: Sebas Mendez, Sacha Kljestan, Will Johnson.
Forwards: Nani, Dom Dwyer, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Brian Rowe, Shane O’Neill, Alex De John, Uri Rosell, Dillon Powers, Benji Michel, Chris Mueller.
Atlanta United (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Defenders: Franco Escobar, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Miles Robinson, Julian Gressel.
Midfielders: Emerson Hyndman, Eric Remedi, Darlington Nagbe.
Forwards: Ezequiel Barco, Justin Meram, Pity Martinez.
Bench: Alec Kann, Michael Parkhurst, Florentin Pogba, Hector Villalba, Andrew Carleton, Mo Adams, Jeff Larentowicz.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, FL.
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Enjoy the match! Go City!
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