Welcome to your match thread for a Friday night match-up between Orlando City and Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium. It’s the second of three scheduled meetings between the two MLS Eastern Conference rivals this season and second in Orlando. The Lions will visit Atlanta on Sept. 10.
The Lions are 2-6-5 in the all-time series against Atlanta in league play and 1-4-2 at home. If you count all competitions, Orlando is 2-7-5 and 1-5-2 at home. As dire as that record is, Orlando went unbeaten in four meetings last year (2-0-2) and is now on a five-match unbeaten streak in the series (2-0-3).
The teams last met back on opening day — April 17 — and played to a 0-0 draw. It was an evenly matched game, with each team firing 11 shots and getting three on frame. The Lions were without the suspended Mauricio Pereyra in that one, as well as Robin Jansson.
The final meeting last season came on Oct. 28, 2020, when Orlando City ran away with a 4-1 win over Atlanta at Exploria Stadium. Daryl Dike, Chris Mueller, Tesho Akindele, and Matheus Aias — his first in MLS — scored the goals for the Lions, with Cubo Torres preventing a shutout with an 87th-minute goal for the visitors. Prior to that, the teams met in Atlanta on Oct. 7 of last year and played to a 0-0 draw. Robinho and Nani each hit the woodwork and Brad Guzan stood on his head to prevent Orlando from taking a deserved three points in that one, while Brian Rowe held down the fort at the other end to earn a shutout in Pedro Gallese’s absence.
Back on Sept. 5, 2020, a late, unforced turnover by Kamal Miller led to Adam Jahn’s 92nd-minute tying goal that offset a Benji Michel goal in a 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium. Orlando City finally got on the board in the series against Atlanta United with a 3-1 win on the road on Aug. 29 of last year. Junior Urso, Mueller, and Nani supplied the offense to more than counter a Brooks Lennon headed goal. That three-goal explosion snapped a three-match scoreless streak against the Five Stripes for Orlando.
Orlando City created an incredible 17 scoring chances on Aug. 23, 2019, yet finished none of them in a 1-0 home loss. Josef Martinez scored the game’s only goal in the second half. Only 17 days earlier at Exploria Stadium, Orlando also failed to score and lost 2-0, getting bounced from the U.S. Open Cup in the semifinals. On Mother’s Day of 2019, Atlanta United claimed a 1-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Pity Martinez scored the goal.
Atlanta won at the stadium then known as Orlando City Stadium on Aug. 24, 2018 by a 2-1 final score. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez bundled home a rebound off Joe Bendik, who misplayed Ezequiel Barco’s free kick to open the scoring just 21 minutes in. Scott Sutter tied the game just before the half, but Josef Martinez broke the deadlock in the second half, with only 16 minutes remaining in normal time.
Atlanta easily claimed the June 30, 2018 meeting at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 4-0. Josef Martinez and Barco scored a goal apiece and Almiron added a brace. Orlando lost the first match-up of 2018, 2-1, on May 13. An early penalty on a Cristian Higuita foul gave the visitors a leg up on a Josef Martinez goal from the spot and Barco doubled the lead before halftime. Justin Meram scored his first goal as a Lion to pull one back, but Orlando could get no closer. The unfortunate ending included a shower of debris coming out of the stands due to dissatisfaction with referee Alan Kelly’s decisions that night. Kelly ended the affair early, which may have killed the Lions’ hopes for a dramatic equalizer.
Hector Villalba’s two late goals in the first two meetings turned a draw and a win into a loss and a draw. The two teams kicked off their series with Orlando suffering a late 1-0 loss at home on July 21, 2017. Villalba found the net in the 86th minute to ruin what was a pretty good performance by the Lions, despite the dearth of goals. Villalba then scored a stoppage-time tally to rescue a 1-1 draw for Atlanta in the second meeting on July 29, 2017. Kaká scored one of his best goals as a Lion in that match to provide Orlando’s tally.
Orlando City became the first visiting team to take any points out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 3-3 draw in Atlanta that September. Dom Dwyer scored his first brace as a Lion (in MLS, anyway) and also assisted on Cyle Larin’s goal. Josef Martinez’s hat trick spoiled Orlando’s bid to take all three points.
The Lions are coming off their worst loss under Oscar Pareja on Sunday, a 5-0 road beatdown at New York City FC. It was the team’s worst defeat since October of 2017, when the Lions lost 6-1 at Philadelphia. Orlando City has only one win in its last five matches, so it’s safe to say the team isn’t in its best form right now. The club has managed a 4-1-2 home record this season, however, so there is some cause for optimism.
Atlanta United has had a tumultuous season, including the firing of first-year coach Gabriel Heinze just 12 days ago. The Five Stripes have gone 10 straight matches without a win but have claimed points in six of those 10 games, posting a record of 0-4-6 dating back to their last win on May 15 against Montreal. Atlanta is 0-3-5 on the road in 2021, and has drawn its last two away from home.
Former USL Lion Rob Valentino is coaching Atlanta United on an interim basis and is off to a start of 0-1-1 after two matches, but his team has only conceded once each match. The former Orlando City defender will try to haunt his old club and had his team give Columbus all it could handle over the weekend before falling in a 1-0 loss at home.
“We’re trying to bounce back and engage in the couple of training sessions that we have in order to be prepared for the game tactically, with our strategy too, and prepare our players mentally, physically and to be ready for the game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “That’s our duty right now.”
As usual, stopping Josef Martinez is the primary goal, and that often comes from starving his service. Orlando will need to be better defensively than it was in New York City, particularly if Gallese can’t play, which is probably going to be the case, although at the time of this writing he has not been ruled out officially and has been listed as questionable. With Sebas Mendez listed as out, the Lions will need some bite in the midfield, so if Junior Urso can’t go, Pareja should start Andres Perea in the central midfield after what happened on Sunday.
Mauricio Pereyra should return from his yellow card suspension for this match and one would expect Nani and Mueller to be available. It’s anyone’s guess when we’ll see Alexandre Pato in uniform again. It would be great symmetry if he dressed for this match since his injury came against Atlanta on opening day. The only player listed as out for Orlando City is Mendez, with Gallese, Pato, and Urso all listed as questionable with the tiresome lower body injury. Dike and Akindele remain on international duty at the Gold Cup.
Atlanta’s injury report lists Emerson Hyndman (torn ACL), Franco Ibarra (lower body), and Mo Adams (left quad) as out, while Jake Mulraney (lower body) is questionable. Guzan, Miles Robinson, and George Bello are on international duty at the Gold Cup. Barco has been at the Olympics and although his team was knocked out a couple days ago, he is not expected to be available.
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report gives us more on United from Kyle Soto from SBNation’s Atlanta blog, Dirty South Soccer.
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for the match.
- Dave Rohe wrote about his three keys to victory for the match.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Mason Stajduhar.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Mauricio Pereyra, Uri Rosell, Andres Perea, Chris Mueller.
Forwards: Nani, Benji Michel.
Bench: Brandon Austin, Emmanuel Mas, Michael Halliday, Rodrigo Schlegel, Joey DeZart, Junior Urso, Alexander Alvarado, Silvester van der Water, Tesho Akindele.
Atlanta United (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Alec Kann.
Defenders: Ronald Hernandez, Anton Walkes, Alan Franco, Brooks Lennon.
Defensive Midfielders: Matheus Rossetto, Santiago Sosa.
Attacking Midfielders: Mikey Ambrose, Marcelino Moreno, Erik Lopez.
Forward: Josef Martinez.
Bench: Ben Lundgaard, George Campbell, Alex De John, Amar Sejdic, Tyler Wolff, Jurgen Damm, Machop Chol, Jackson Conway, Erick Torres.
Ref: Rubiel Vazquez.
AR1: Brian Poeschel.
AR2: Diego Blas.
4th: Ismir Pekmic.
VAR: Daniel Radford.
AVAR: Jozef Batko.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Accion 97.9 (Spanish), 810 AM.
Streaming: The match can be streamed on WatchESPN.
Enjoy the match. Go City!