Welcome to your preview and match thread for tonight’s match between Orlando City and Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at 7 p.m. (FOX 35 Plus). It’s the third of four scheduled meetings between the Lions (8-2-5, 29 points) and Atlanta United (5-8-2, 17 points) and the second of two in Atlanta. The Lions and Five Stripes will meet once again in Orlando three weeks from tonight.
Orlando City is 1-6-3 in the all-time MLS series (1-7-3 in all competitions) and 1-2-2 on the road. The last time the Lions visited this building they picked up their first win in the all-time series.
If not for a late, unforced turnover by Kamal Miller that led to an Adam Jahn tying goal, the Lions would be sitting on a two-game winning streak in the series. Unfortunately that Jahn goal happened and it offset a Benji Michel goal in a 1-1 draw back on Sept. 5 at Exploria Stadium.
In the last meeting in Mercedes-Benz 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.
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. Josef Martinez’s hat trick spoiled Orlando’s bid to take all three points.
The Lions are 2-2-2 in true road matches this season and 4-2-3 in all games away from Exploria Stadium, while Atlanta is 3-2-1 at home. The Lions are coming off a 3-1 home win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night. Atlanta crushed D.C. United 4-0 on the road that same night.
Interim manager Stephen Glass is 3-5-2 at the helm of Atlanta, which has won two of its last three (2-0-1) — the team’s best run since posting consecutive wins at Nashville and home vs. Cincinnati to open the 2020 season back in late February and early March.
Having played each other twice already, these teams will be well prepared for this match-up in terms of tactics and what to expect, but the wild card will be who is available. Orlando will be missing goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and midfielder Sebas Mendez, who are both on international duty. In addition, Dom Dwyer (knee surgery), Tesho Akindele (undisclosed injury), Joao Moutinho (groin), Uri Rosell (undisclosed injury), and Mauricio Pereyra (undisclosed injury that looked a hell of a lot like a hamstring on Saturday) are out. Ruan (hamstring) is day to day. To put it mildly, it’s not an ideal situation for Orlando City, which is in the midst of the most brutal part of its 2020 schedule.
“We won’t talk about that as an excuse at all,” Oscar Pareja said of the injuries and international absences. “The players have been working hard, and the guys who are coming into the lineup, they’re doing a great job.”
The central midfield could see a shakeup with so many games coming up. The logical choice in a normal situation would be Saturday’s tandem of Junior Urso and Andres Perea — both of whom made the bench of this week’s MLS Team of the Week. But Pareja could give minutes to Joey DeZart and/or David Loera to maintain some fresh legs through roster rotation. Perea or Urso could slide forward into Pereyra’s normal slot to maintain Nani and Chris Mueller on the wings, or Pareja could give a start to Robinho and/or Michel. The options are numerous so we’ll have to wait for the starting lineup to come out.
Meanwhile, Atlanta is without Josef Martinez (knee surgery), Cubo Torres (knee), and Matheus Rossetto (undisclosed injury).
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more background on Atlanta United through Rob Usry of SBNation’s Dirty South Soccer.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions.
- Our Daniel Finton wrote about Brian Rowe being a good option to have off the bench in Gallsese’s absence.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Brian Rowe.
Defenders: Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith.
Midfielders: Robinho, Andres Perea, Joey DeZart, Junior Urso.
Forwards: Benji Michel, Daryl Dike.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Antonio Carlos, Alex De John, Michael Halliday, Nani, Chris Mueller, David Loera, Jordan Bender.
Atlanta United (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Defenders: George Bello, Miles Robinson, Anton Walkes, Franco Escobar.
Midfielders: Mo Adams, Jeff Larentowicz, Emerson Hyndman.
Forwards: Jon Gallagher, Adam Jahn, Brooks Lennon.
Bench: Alec Kann, Fernando Meza, George Campbell, Jurgen Damm, Manuel Castro, Eric Remedi, Jake Mulraney, Tyler Wolff, Laurence Wyke.
Ref: Rubiel Vazquez.
AR1: Nick Uranga.
AR2: Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein.
4th: Ted Unkel.
VAR: Sorin Stoica.
AVAR: Joshua Patlak.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m. ET.
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Atlanta, GA.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ (out of market only).
Radio: 96.9 FM The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM (Spanish), 810 AM.
Enjoy the match! Go City!
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