For the second week in a row, Orlando City played a match against Atlanta United FC. This time, the Lions hosted Atlanta in Exploria Stadium, looking for the first win over the northern team at home. Unfortunately, a late goal from Atlanta spoiled that, and the Lions had to settle for a point at home.
The Dike Difference
Daryl Dike got his fifth start in a row, and it was well deserved. The rookie continued to show that even though there’s still plenty he needs to learn, he is a threat in MLS already. His hold-up play was on show, as he took on Atlanta’s center backs, creating space for his teammates and for himself. His assist was an attempted shot that Benji Michel redirected to give Orlando the lead. Even though he was subbed off in the 57th minute, he had an impact on the match as big as the man himself.
Óscar Pareja has done a masterful job of managing his players through five matches in a 15-day stretch. The Lions earned eight out of 15 possible points in those five matches, While that might not seem great, at the end of it Orlando finds itself sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference with only one more match in Phase 1. Pareja wasn’t afraid to rest his big names like Nani (who also has been struggling with inflammation in his groin muscle), Chris Mueller, and Ruan. That willingness to switch things around made a big difference in the results. If the MLS schedule settles down, having the starters and the subs with playing time will only help the Lions.
I mentioned that Dike got his fifth start above, but there were other players that did the same and more. Robin Jansson, and Uri Rosell were two other players that started each game, and honestly played a ton of minutes. Jansson and Rosell are the backbone of the Lions’ defense. Each made both defensive and offensive plays in this match and previous matches. Rosell’s contributions have gone under the radar, but in the match against Atlanta he had seven tackles, three interceptions, one clearance, and one blocked shot. Jansson had one tackle, four interceptions, and six clearances. Pareja trusts these guys, and so should we.
Orlando City has been a much better defensive team since the start of the MLS is Back Tournament, and that continued against Atlanta for 90 minutes. The Lions had 15 clearances, and numerous interceptions throughout the match. Many of those interceptions came at key points to blunt Atlanta’s attack. In the first half Atlanta didn’t spend much time in Orlando’s area. It was the Lions’ ability to recover and take back the ball that stifled the opposition. At least until the 92nd minute.
Late Goal Woes
It seems like it’s been a while since Orlando City has lost points in stoppage time, but that’s just what happened Saturday night. The Lions were in the lead for the entire second half, and were trying to see the match out by possessing the ball, and playing keep away. They were almost able to do so but, after a Kamal Miller turnover, Atlanta broke through in stoppage time to steal a point on the road against the better team. Orlando City only had a little over two minutes to try and get the win from that point, but was unable to do so, and must settle for a point at home.
That’s what I saw, how about you? Let me know in the comments below.