The last match was bad. The score was bad, the play was bad, the field was bad, and the injury to Pedro Gallese was bad. With all of that said, it’s time to take some advice from Ted Lasso and be a goldfish. Now that we’re looking ahead, let’s see what Orlando City needs to do to also be a goldfish and earn three points against Atlanta United FC.
Other than Gallese, Orlando City should have all of its first choice defenders available for the upcoming match, plus Kyle Smith. Despite there being so many defenders on the pitch, the team gave up five goals. While there were plenty of reasons for doing so, it can’t happen again. That is especially true now that the Lions will be back in Exploria Stadium, and not on the infield of a baseball diamond. The Lions must get back to the defense that was one of the best in the league at the beginning of the season.
Josef Martínez made his return to Atlanta United and will be bringing his ever annoying self to Orlando with all his usual smack talk. Orlando City must shut him down like they did the last time the teams met. With the likelihood of backup keeper Brandon Austin between the sticks, it will be even more important for Antonio Carlos and Rodrigo Schlegel (and/or Robin Jansson?) to protect the middle of the box, and whichever fullbacks start on the wings must force the play wide.
The Midfield Must Return
Atlanta has some players who are pretty good in the midfield. Orlando City is going to need to counter them and also be able to move up into the attack if they hope to defeat Atlanta. The return of Sebas Mendez and/or Júnior Urso to the lineup would help on the defensive side. Orlando needs more bite in the midfield than it showed on Sunday.
On the other end, having Mauricio Pereyra back in the lineup and pulling the strings for the offense will help.
No Strikers, No Excuses
There’s nothing new here, unfortunately. Daryl Dike and Tesho Akindele are on international duty. Alexandre Pato has a lower body injury, which means he could start Friday or be out for three more weeks. That leaves Benji Michel, who I think is great, but he is still a backup and more of a wing player than a true striker. Orlando City’s attack has been score by committee for a while now, and it will need to continue to be so.
Chris Mueller might still be a question mark due to the whole Scotland thing or he could return to the lineup now that he’s had a day off. His presence would be a welcome one. Nani either took a personal day or an enforced day off for the NYCFC match, but there’s certainly no way he won’t be in the starting lineup for Atlanta. Whoever plays up top will have to work with Pereyra to provide more chances than the five shots with three on target from last match. Orlando City is almost certainly going to need to score more than one goal to get a victory, and the captain will need to contribute.
Those are the things I’ll be looking for Friday night in Exploria Stadium. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.