Welcome to your preview and match thread for tonight’s match between Orlando City and Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium at 7 p.m. (FS1, FOX Deportes). It’s the fourth and final scheduled meeting between the Lions (8-3-8, 32 points) and Atlanta United (5-11-4, 19 points) and the second of two in Orlando. The Lions hold a 1-0-2 advantage in the season series (0-0-1 at home).
Orlando City is 1-6-4 in the all-time MLS series (1-7-4 in all competitions) and 0-4-1 at home. The Lions are unbeaten in the last three against Atlanta (1-0-2), with all three of those games played in 2020. The teams met most recently in Atlanta on Oct. 7 and played to a 0-0 draw. Robinho and Nani each hit the woodwork and Brad Guzan stood on his head to prevent Orlando from taking a deserved three points in that one, while Brian Rowe held down the fort at the other end to earn a shutout in Pedro Gallese’s absence.
In the last meeting in Orlando back on Sept. 5, a late, unforced turnover by Kamal Miller led to Adam Jahn’s 92nd-minute tying goal that offset a Benji Michel goal in a 1-1 draw back on Sept. 5 at Exploria Stadium.
Orlando City finally got on the board in the series against Atlanta United with a 3-1 win on the road Aug. 29. Junior Urso, Chris Mueller, and Nani supplied the offense to more than counter a Brooks Lennon headed goal. That three-goal explosion snapped a three-match scoreless streak against the Five Stripes for Orlando.
Orlando City created an incredible 17 scoring chances on Aug. 23, 2019, yet finished none of them in a 1-0 home loss. Josef Martinez scored the game’s only goal in the second half. Only 17 days earlier at Exploria Stadium, Orlando also failed to score and lost 2-0, getting bounced from the U.S. Open Cup in the semifinals. On Mother’s Day of last year Atlanta United claimed a 1-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Pity Martinez scored the goal.
Atlanta won at the stadium then known as Orlando City Stadium on Aug. 24, 2018 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, 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 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.
Hector Villalba’s 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. Josef Martinez’s hat trick spoiled Orlando’s bid to take all three points.
The Lions are 4-0-3 at home this season, while Atlanta is 2-4-2 in true road games this season and 2-7-2 in all matches away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Lions are coming off their first loss since August, as a late Gonzalez Pirez goal at Miami pushed the Herons to a 2-1 win. Robin Jansson’s own goal put Miami on the board after Daryl Dike had put Orlando up early. That snapped Orlando’s 6-0-6 unbeaten streak and the Lions are now winless in four (0-1-3) and have won only once in the last six (1-1-4) which is the team’s worst form of the 2020 season.
Atlanta is coming off a 2-1 home loss to D.C. United at midweek. The Five Stripes are winless in five matches overall (0-3-2) and are 0-1-1 in their last two road games. Interim manager Stephen Glass is 3-8-4 at the helm of Atlanta.
Having played each other three times already, it’s relatively safe to assume we know how this match will go. Atlanta will try to possess the ball and Orlando will try to force the visitors to lump balls in from the wings. If the fullbacks and midfielders play well, the crosses will be of the low-percentage variety and it will be up to the Lions’ center backs to defend in the air and for the midfielders to cover late runners. The Lions will try to build out of the back and probe for openings when in possession and when Atlanta has the ball Orlando will try to win the ball with the press and look for transition opportunities.
“I think Atlanta has urgency. They have a few games just to qualify for playoffs,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said in his Monday press conference. “I think it will obviously create some pressure and then we will be ready for for the game too. For us it doesn’t change much because I would like to have in every game urgency too...It’s difficult sometimes to keep it all the time but they (the players) know that it’s a requirement if you want to win.”
Orlando City continues to await the returns of midfielders Uri Rosell and Mauricio Pereyra (both undisclosed injuries). Pareja said Monday that both are getting very close, though he wouldn’t commit to a return date. Joao Moutinho (groin) and Dom Dwyer (knee surgery) remain out. Meanwhile, Atlanta is without Josef Martinez (knee surgery) and defender Miles Robinson may have tested positive for COVID-19.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more background on Atlanta United through David McFarland of SBNation’s Dirty South Soccer.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions.
- Our Dave Rohe wrote about the three keys to victory for Orlando City.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Nani, Joey DeZart, Junior Urso, Chris Mueller.
Forwards: Tesho Akindele, Daryl Dike.
Bench: Brian Rowe, Alex De John, Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Sebas Mendez, Andres Perea, Matheus Aias, Alexander Alvarado, Benji Michel.
Atlanta United (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Defenders: George Bello, Laurence Wyke, Fernando Meza, Anton Walkes.
Defensive Midfielders: Matheus Rossetto, Mohammed Adams.
Attacking Midfielders: Ezequiel Barco, Marcelino Moreno, Jurgen Damm.
Forwards: Adam Jahn.
Bench: Alec Kann, Brooks Lennon, George Campbell, Emerson Hyndman, Eric Remedi, Jake Mulraney, Jon Gallagher, Jeff Larentowicz. Cubo Torres.
Ref: Alex Chilowicz.
AR1: Ian McKay.
AR2: Matthew Osterhouse.
4th: Matthew Thompson.
VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: FS1, FOX Deportes.
Streaming: FOX Sports GO.
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Acción 97.9 FM and 810 AM.(Spanish).
Enjoy the match! Go City!