Orlando City will play its second rivalry game in as many weekends, when the Lions head up north to take on our neighbors, Atlanta United, on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta currently sits in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings with 23 points and a 6-8-5 record.
Let’s take a look at why Atlanta has fallen slightly down the order this season and the implications this may have for Sunday’s match with Orlando.
United come at their opponents with much more of an attacking presence than any other team in MLS, manufacturing a league-leading 295 total scoring attempts. With such a large quantity of scoring attempts, it is easy to see how Atlanta is tied for second in on-target scoring attempts (106). However, 106 accurate scoring attempts is relatively low for a team that obtains 295 total, meaning that the club’s accurate shooting percentage (35.9%) only sits slightly above the middle of the league, ranking 12th. Atlanta has also not been able to convert its large number of accurate forward zone passes (3,987), ranking third, into actual scoring chances, as it is tied for 19th in assists (23).
Atlanta has conceded the ninth-most goals of any MLS club (30), which seems like a very unlikely place for United to be, considering they have allowed the second-fewest shots on target (66) this season. However, a large swath of the disparity we see between goals conceded and shots against for Atlanta can be contributed to an ongoing goalkeeping situation that it has yet to get a grasp on since starter Brad Guzan was announced as out for the season on April 27. The Atlanta defense has done a good job throughout the season to help give the team’s goalkeepers a break though, ranking highly in multiple categories. United are third in duel percentage (52.8%), fourth in successful pressure percentage (31.3%), seventh in blocks (285), and tied for 16th in tackles (329).
Players to Watch
It has been a group effort offensively for Atlanta this season, without one main offensive contributor. Forward Ronaldo Cisneros leads the club in goals scored (6) while forward Luiz Araújo has contributed greatly to the non-stop style of scoring chances we see from Atlanta, as he is first in total scoring opportunities (47) thus far. Meanwhile, forward Josef Martinez has been a reliable source for quality scoring opportunities, ranking first for Atlanta in accurate shooting percentage (56.5%) among players who have a minimum of 10 total scoring opportunities.
The Atlanta defense has been headlined by Alan Franco, who leads the club in both interceptions (20) and duel percentage (67.3%) among players who have won more than 100 duels. Midfielder Marcelino Moreno has also helped out in one-on-one situations as he has a team high of 240 duels won on the year. After the season-ending injury to Guzan, Atlanta signed goalkeeper Rocco Ríos Novo, who has since split starts with Bobby Shuttleworth, although the latter announced his retirement last week. Ríos Novo has made six starts, conceding 10 goals on 20 shots against for a save percentage of 50%.
This is what I was able to find on Atlanta United. Let me know what you think about this Sunday’s rivalry match in the comments, and as always, go Orlando!