Today is a special Friday since it’s also an Orlando City gameday. The Lions come into this match in need of a win, as the team has been in a rocky patch of form having won only once in its last five games. OCSC will look to get things back on track when it takes on Atlanta United at home this evening.
Ahead of the visit from The Five Stripes I spoke to Kyle Soto, one of the contributors over at SBNation’s Dirty South Soccer. Kyle did an excellent job of bringing us up to speed on Atlanta.
Atlanta United have played two games under interim coach Rob Valentino, with a draw and a loss as the results. Results aside, how was the team’s performance in those games?
Kyle Soto: In two games under Valentino the team has already been much more productive in terms of goal-scoring chances. All that’s left is for Atlanta United to finish those chances off, though I think that will be an issue for Atlanta due to the team’s lack of quality finishing outside of Josef Martinez (more on that in a minute).
What differences have you noticed in playing style between Valentino’s Atlanta and the Heinze-coached Five Stripes?
KS: Even though Atlanta United has only played two games under interim head coach Rob Valentino and he hasn’t had much time to work with the team, you can already tell the difference between Valentino’s and Gabriel Heinze’s Atlanta United. Under Heinze, goal-scoring chances were few and far between. Atlanta has seemed more willing to cede possession for those goal-scoring chances since Heinze left. They take more risks and play with more freedom, sending more players forward into the attack. I don’t think any Atlanta fans will take issue with that.
Who are two dangerous names for Orlando City fans to watch on Friday?
KS: You always have to take Josef Martinez into account. Even though he isn’t back to his old self quite yet, the striker will always pose a threat and opposition defenders will always have to be aware of where he is. More recently, we’ve seen him dropping deep to pick up the ball and help in the buildup. In Atlanta’s last game against the Columbus Crew, he took two shots and failed to put both on target. However, he created three chances (the same amount as Jake Mulraney and Brooks Lennon in that match). He hasn’t played all that much recently since coming back from Copa America either. He logged 25 minutes in Valentino’s first game in charge and played the full 90 against Columbus. As he logs more minutes, I think his production will trend upwards. Plus, he loves a goal against Orlando.
Atlanta doesn’t exactly have many prolific goal scorers besides Josef, plus the team is missing a handful of starters due to international competitions. I’d also throw Brooks Lennon’s name into this conversation as he has been one Atlanta’s most consistent players so far this season. He only falls behind Carles Gil in successful crosses (49). He’s also ranked third in key passes (41), only trailing Gil (72) and Emanuel Reynoso (42). Depending on how Marcelino Moreno is feeling on Friday, Orlando may want to keep an eye on him as well.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
KS: Atlanta United is missing four starters due to international competitions. Brad Guzan, Miles Robinson, and George Bello are all with the USMNT Gold Cup squad while Ezequiel Barco is with Argentina at the Olympics. Franco Ibarra, Emerson Hyndman, and Mo Adams are out due to injury, and Jake Mulraney and Alan Franco both picked up injuries in Atlanta’s last match, but we haven’t had a media availability to ask if Mulraney and Franco will be available for Friday’s match.
My projected starting XI: Alec Kann; Ronald Hernandez, Anton Walkes, Alan Franco, Brooks Lennon; Santiago Sosa, Marcelino Moreno, Amar Sejdic; Machop Chol, Josef Martinez, Erik López
For my score prediction, I’m gonna go with a 2-1 win to Atlanta United.
Big thanks to Kyle for the great insight on Atlanta United. Vamos Orlando!