The Lions took the field at home to kick off the Major League Soccer season for the seventh time on Saturday, and for the sixth time Orlando City left the field with one point after a 0-0 draw. Orlando has never lost an opening day match but with the Lions failing to put a ball in the net behind Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan, the team still has only one win in its first match of the season.
Missing several key players, including the suspended Mauricio Pereyra and the injured Robin Jansson, Joao Moutinho, and Uri Rosell, the Lions were content to cede more possession than usual to the visitors, and were still able to create more good scoring opportunities, but the typical opening game lack of sharpness frustrated fans and players alike. Perhaps no one was more frustrated than new striker Alexandre Pato, who came within inches of getting in alone on goal multiple times, only for a defender to get a toe on the ball to knock it away at the last second. When he did get opportunities, Guzan robbed him on his best chance and Sebas Mendez perhaps got in the way of a simple tap-in. And then Pato left with an unfortunate injury in the second half.
Orlando City being dissatisfied with a draw against Atlanta is a sign that expectations and ambition are higher than they’ve ever been in the club’s MLS era. There were plenty of positives to take from the match. Most notably, despite the left side of the back line missing starters, the Lions yielded very few chances to the visitors.
The Lions are now unbeaten in five straight against their noisy neighbors to the north and the team will turn its attention toward a trip to Kansas City to play Sporting this Friday. Pereyra will miss one more game with his suspension and we don’t have an update on Pato, Jansson, or Rosell at the moment, while Moutinho is likely still a few weeks away.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy these photos from a bright, sunny opening day against Atlanta.
Words: Michael Citro
Photos: Dan MacDonald