Orlando City returned home to host rival Atlanta United. The Lions came in with only one win in the last five matches, including the embarrassing loss to New York City FC. Orlando City was also without Daryl Dike, Alexandre Pato, Sebas Mendez, and João Moutinho to take on the rival from the north. Fortunately, the Lions were able to come back twice in the match to defeat the bad guys 3-2 in Exploria Stadium. Let’s see what we learned from the match.
Stajduhar’s First Start
Let’s get this out of the way. Mason Stajduhar was not to blame for either Atlanta goal as he made his MLS debut. Josef Martinez’s goal in the first minute was a rocket that hit the right post and bounced in, and he shouldn’t have been that free in the defensive midfield, but Orlando was caught in transition early. The story is exactly the same from the second half goal from Marcelino Moreno. It was a golazo from outside the box without anyone closing down Moreno because of a turnover caused by Mauricio Pereyra letting a ball run through the midfield. Moreno smashed it in the upper 90 — just inside the far post and just under the crossbar. Stajduhar made only one save and it was an excellent one on a difficult ball by coming out, getting big, and deflecting the shot over the goal. In the second half he was decisive in coming off his line to cover the ball as Martinez came into the box. Despite giving up two goals, Stajduhar had a good night.
Benji Michel made the right runs, even at the right time for those runs. However, his finishing was not there. Michel had several opportunities, and on two that he connected he found Alec Kann’s midsection each time. He took another run in the second half, nearly making it past the defender, but was only able to hit the side netting. It’s not that he had a bad night but as a striker you are judged on scoring goals, and on this night he was found wanting. He did get a bit of redemption with his assist on the Silvester van der Water goal in the 79th minute. He made the right decision to put it straight across with his head rather than trying to settle the ball first.
Put Respect on his Name
Kyle Smith has played all but one half of every single match this season, but last night he did something he hasn’t ever done for Orlando City. Smith scored a goal. In the 43rd minute he got a head on a corner kick to equalize for the Lions. It’s not surprising that he got the start as João Moutinho was not in the 18 for the match. Smith got a bit more rest too, coming off in the 83rd minute for Emmanuel Mas.
Ruan is Back
This is the first match that Ruan looked to truly be back, and he caused plenty of headaches for the Atlanta defense. In the first half, Orlando’s offense went up the right side through Ruan and on to Chris Mueller. The two attacked former Lion Mikey Ambrose so relentlessly that Ambrose was subbed off to start the second half. It was good to see Orlando City’s speedster make his presence felt on the right side of the field in his first start since being injured weeks ago.
Van der Savior
Silvester van der Water came on in the 74th minute and all he did was score the equalizer in the 79th minute and assist on Nani’s go-ahead goal in the 87th minute to give Orlando City the win. It’s hard to make more of an impact in a 20-minute span than van der Water did after coming on for Mueller. While fresh legs certainly had something to do with it, he did exactly what is expected from the type of player he is. With Mueller’s time at Orlando City waning, having van der Water able to take that role is very comforting.
That is what I saw in the match, but let me know your thoughts in the comments below.