Welcome to your preview and match thread for tonight’s match between Orlando City and Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium at 8 p.m. (FOX, FOX Deportes). The Lions (4-2-3, 15 points) will be playing their fifth game in 15 days as we near the end of Phase 1 of the MLS restart. It’ll be the second match in a week against Atlanta United (3-4-1, 10 points), which is about to jettison Pity Martinez and still has yet to replace manager Frank de Boer.
Let’s take a look at tonight’s match-up.
Orlando City is 1-6-2 in the all-time MLS series (1-7-2 in all competitions) and 0-4-0 at home in league play (0-5-0 in all competitions). Now that the Lions have finally gotten a win over their northern neighbors, can they finally get on the board in their own building?
It took until the 10th competitive match between the sides, but Orlando City finally got on the board in the series against Atlanta United with a 3-1 win on the road a week ago on Aug. 29 in an afternoon matinee at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 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.
The last meeting in Exploria Stadium came on Aug. 23, 2019, 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.
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 1-0-1 at home this season while Atlanta is 1-0-0 in true away matches in 2020 — although the Five Stripes went 0-3-0 in Orlando during the MLS is Back Tournament. The Lions are coming off a 1-1 road draw at Nashville SC on Wednesday. Atlanta drew Inter Miami 0-0 that same night in its most recent outing.
Interim manager Stephen Glass is 1-1-1 at the helm of Atlanta, which is currently on a two-game winless skid (0-1-1).
Oscar Pareja noted in his pregame press conference on Thursday that Atlanta remains a dangerous team.
“Atlanta has very good players, especially the ones who are part of their attack,” he said. “Atlanta is a team who offensively are very aggressive and they have been in the last few years, with a model or idea of the game that is very clear, which is to have a lot of width and to have wingers that can go in 1-v-1 against you in tight spaces, or players who can play in between the lines.
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 Atlanta is conceding just a goal per game after Wednesday’s shutout. If you take away the three Orlando scored last Saturday, Atlanta has conceded just five goals in its other seven matches.
Look for Atlanta to hold most of the possession, as the Five Stripes like to keep the ball and have been good at doing so. Cubo Torres looks like he’s starting to supplant Adam Jahn as the preferred option up top in the attack. Barco will work between the lines, take dangerous shots from outside the area, and try to work through balls into the box. The Lions will have to be sharp defensively for 90+ minutes as they were last Saturday when they limited Atlanta to 11 shot attempts (four on target). But more importantly, Orlando must avoid turnovers in the defensive half or the middle of the pitch, which would ignite Atlanta’s transition game.
Orlando enters this match without left back Joao Moutinho (groin), who was instrumental in last weekend’s win at Atlanta, and the team continues to be without Dom Dwyer (knee surgery). Not that they were likely to play tonight anyway, but midfielders Joey DeZart and Jordan Bender and goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar all played for OCB on Thursday night in a 1-1 draw vs. North Texas SC, meaning they will likely be unavailable for selection. Atlanta will be missing Josef Martinez (torn ACL) and Fernando Meza (knee), with Pity Martinez likely out due to an impending transfer to Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia.
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 (4-4-1-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Chris Mueller, Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell, Benji Michel.
Attacking Midfielder: Mauricio Pereyra.
Forward: Daryl Dike.
Bench: Brian Rowe, Kyle Smith, Alex De John, Rodrigo Schlegel, Junior Urso, Andres Perea, Nani Robinho, Tesho Akindele.
Atlanta United (4-1-4-1)
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Defenders: George Bello, Anton Walkes, Miles Robinson, Franco Escobar.
Defensive Midfielder: Eric Remedi.
Midfielders: Ezequiel Barco, Emerson Hyndman, Jeff Larentowicz, Brooks Lennon.
Forwards: Erick Torres.
Bench: Alec Kann, Edgar Castillo, Jurgen Damm, Jake Mulraney, Matheus Rossetto, Tyler Wolff, Laurence Wyke, Adam Jahn, Jon Gallagher.
Ref: Victor Rivas.
AR1: Eric Weisbrod.
AR2: Jose da Silva.
4th: Rubiel Vazquez.
VAR: Chris Penso.
AVAR: Kyle Longville.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX, FOX Deportes.
Streaming: FOX Sports Go, FuboTV — you can click here to subscribe or go get a free trial.
Radio: 96.9 FM The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM (Spanish), 810 AM.
Enjoy the match! Go City!
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