Welcome to your preview and match thread for this afternoon’s match between Orlando City and Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Lions (3-2-2, 11 points) will be playing their second game in four days, while Atlanta United (3-3-0, 9 points) is on a week’s rest after sitting out Wednesday’s match against Inter Miami as part of the nationwide sports protests of inequality.
It still can’t be called a rivalry until Orlando City gets on the board in this series, but it’ll take a massive effort to get that with either a heavily rotated squad or a group that includes several players who just finished playing a match 66 hours prior. We’ll find out how that will go at 3:30 p.m. (Univision) in Orlando City’s first trip out of state since March 7 at Colorado.
Orlando City is 0-6-2 in the all-time MLS series (0-7-2 in all competitions) and 0-2-2 on the road, which is objectively a terrible record against any opponent, but at least both of Orlando’s points in the series have come away. I ask again — can someone please wake up the law of averages?
The most recent meeting between the two teams occurred Aug. 23, 2019 in Exploria Stadium, when Orlando City created an incredible 17 scoring chances 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. The most recent match in Atlanta came on Mother’s Day of last year, with Atlanta United 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 4, Orlando City 0 in the last three previous meetings. Let’s move on.
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 0-2-0 in true road games this season while Atlanta is 2-0-0 at home. The Lions are coming off a 3-1 home win over Nashville SC on Wednesday night. Daryl Dike has the hot hand, scoring three goals and adding a secondary assist in the last two matches. Mauricio Pereyra notched two assists on Wednesday.
Atlanta last played a week ago in a 2-0 home win over Nashville, with Pity Martinez scoring both goals for the Five Stripes. It was interim manager Stephen Glass’ first match at the helm following the firing of Frank de Boer, who was let go after Atlanta’s 0-3 showing at the MLS is Back Tournament without scoring a goal. The team dropped de Boer’s 3-4-3 in favor of a 4-3-3 last week and that seemed to open up Martinez’s offense. But Pity isn’t the only dangerous Atlanta attacker, a fact that Oscar Pareja noted in his pregame press conference on Thursday.
“I see players with a lot of creativity up front — Martinez, Barco, (Adam) Jahn, the inclusion of (fullback Brooks) Lennon as well on the right has been important for them,” Pareja said. “The kid (midfielder Emerson) Hyndman is a kid that I well know from times in the FCLS Academy. So this group of players just brings some technical ability there that we will consider, we will keep studying and see if we can neutralize it in the game.”
But Atlanta isn’t just a team with gifted offensive players. Orlando failed to score a single goal in three meetings against the Five Stripes a year ago and is conceding just under a goal per game after last week’s shutout.
Orlando enters this match without Dom Dwyer (knee surgery), but the unnamed player who had an inconclusive COVID-19 test earlier in the week tested negatively in a second test and is available for selection.
Atlanta will be missing Josef Martinez (torn ACL) and Fernando Meza (knee), while Barco (lower body) and Emerson Hyndman (lower body) are listed as questionable. Defender Franco Escobar is suspended.
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.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith.
Defensive Midfielders: Uri Rosell, Andres Perea.
Attacking Midfielders: Benji Michel, Junior Urso, Chris Mueller.
Forward: Daryl Dike.
Bench: Brian Rowe, Ruan, Kamal Miller, Rodrigo Schlegel, Nani, Robinho, Sebas Mendez, David Loera, Jordan Bender.
Atlanta United (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Defenders: George Bello, Anton Walkes, Miles Robinson, Brooks Lennon.
Defensive Midfielders: Mohammed Adams, Eric Remedi.
Attacking Midfielders: Matheus Rossetto, Pity Martinez, Manuel Castro..
Forward: Adam Jahn.
Bench: Alec Kann, Edgar Castillo, Jurgen Damm, Jake Mulraney, Ezequiel Barco, Laurence Wyke, Erick Torres, Jon Gallagher, Jeff Laurentowicz.
Ref: Nima Saghafi.
AR1: Eric Weisbrod.
AR2: Cameron Blanchard.
4th: Guido Gonzales Jr.
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez.
AVAR: Fabio Tovar.
How to Watch
Match Time: 3:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Atlanta, GA.
TV: Univision, TUDN.
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), Acción 97.9 FM (Spanish), 810 AM.
Enjoy the match! Go City!
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