Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Final Score 3-0 as Lions Fall Flat on the Road
Orlando City looked like the team below the line and Atlanta appeared to be the conference’s second-place team as the Lions were played completely off the field in a 3-0 loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Lions (10-5-8, 38 points) saw their seven-match unbeaten streak snapped by the same Atlanta (7-7-9, 30 points) club that it started against and split the points in the season series, finishing 1-1-1 in the three meetings.
It was a poor night from the Lions in every facet of the game. They didn’t press, defend, pass, attack, or even touch the ball well all night. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja lost against Atlanta for the first time since taking over the Lions and Gonzalo Pineda won his first game as the Five Stripes’ new coach. George Campbell and Ezequiel Barco scored for Atlanta, sandwiched around a Daryl Dike own goal.
“Very disappointed today. Not just the result but the way that we played,” Pareja said after the game. “I think it’s one of those nights where we couldn’t put our game on the field and Atlanta took advantage of two silly mistakes on those set plays that we had in the first half.”
Pareja’s lineup again featured Adam Grinwis in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Andres Perea started in place of the suspended Junior Urso, beside Joey DeZart in the central midfield. Mauricio Pereyra and Benji Michel were tasked with facilitating the attack in the middle third, with Nani and Dike at the top of the formation.
Despite it being a strong lineup for Orlando, and outside of the central midfield and goalkeeper was more or less a first-choice starting XI, the Lions were never in this one. From the opening minutes, the Lions did little to bother Atlanta or even let the Five Stripes know they were in the game. There was no organization when the Lions pressed, and there were no clear game tactics on display. It was simply an entire game played on the back foot.
Part of the problem was a curious lack of energy by Orlando City, but the midfield was also an issue all night and the forwards’ poor touches and wayward passes didn’t help in those few instances that some semblance of buildup took place. Without Urso or Sebas Mendez, there was no bite in the midfield. Atlanta ran through the Lions in the middle of the pitch with ease, and it wasn’t until Uri Rosell checked in during the game’s later stages that anyone wearing an Atlanta uniform had to turn back with the ball.
“We didn’t look urgent today,” Pareja said. “We were outplayed by intensity, especially in the middle, and then the reactions when the goals came in the first half, they were not natural for us. We were slow to react. The middle of the field looked so big for us. I think we were very spacey.”
Atlanta dominated the opening 45 minutes and it always seemed like a matter of when the hosts would score and how many. Luiz Araujo couldn’t capitalize on a couple of early chances. He hit the left post from the right side in the fourth minute, sending a curling shot off the woodwork after the Lions failed to get anywhere near closing him down from just outside the area.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 10, 2021
Five minutes later, Grinwis made a diving save to deny Marcelino Moreno from outside the area when he too was given space. In the 12th minute, it was Araujo again failing to capitalize on a good opportunity, sending a shot just wide of the right post.
During all of these Atlanta chances, the hosts were comfortable in possession as the Lions struggled to even gain possession, let alone string passes together. Orlando hardly crossed the midfield stripe in the opening 20 minutes.
Orlando’s first opportunity came in the 17th minute when Dike was fouled by Alan Franco just outside the area but Nani’s free kick smacked off the wall and skipped out for a throw.
The first dangerous shot by the Lions came in the 20th minute. Moutinho did well to cut inside and find Michel on the left side. Michel fired with his left foot toward the far post but the shot stayed high and sailed just over the bar.
Five minutes later, the hosts scored. Atlanta played a corner kick short, and the Lions kind of milled around as spectators as Moreno was given acres of space to send a cross into the box. Nobody seemed interested in reacting to the cross except Campbell, who headed off the fake grass and past Grinwis to open the scoring.
George Campbell nets his first MLS goal to give @ATLUTD the lead! ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/8qeWabx7wn
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 10, 2021
Atlanta scored off another set piece in the 34th minute. Carlos committed a foul and drew a yellow card just outside the area to Grinwis’ right. Ezequiel Barco sent in a cross that bounced off Nani, hit Dike, then deflected in for an own goal. It was the second Orlando City own goal in the last two matches.
With a little help from our friendly neighbors 🤷 pic.twitter.com/dFQR42IiFA
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 11, 2021
“Tactically they were better than us,” Pereyra said. “They played without a center forward and they’ve got many people with quality in the half pitch. We didn’t know how to accommodate in the pressing that we’d been working on in the week and it’s something that we need to grow now because we should adapt in the game.”
The only potential opportunities Orlando had to break in transition were both broken up by Atlanta defenders. Franco and Campbell were each booked for taking down Michel on the counter. The first would have been a 2-v-1 with Dike but Franco was likely in position to thwart the second, when Campbell drew a yellow for his foul.
It was a deserved lead at the half for the hosts and they honestly didn’t need to work that hard for it. The Lions just seemed flat, bereft of ideas, and both their touch and passing was poor throughout the opening half.
Atlanta United dominated the opening half statistically as it did on the scoreboard, leading in shots (7-3), shots on goal (2-0), possession (63.3%-36.7%), and passing accuracy (90.2%-79%), with each team earning one corner kick.
Any hope that things would change in the second half were quickly dashed. The Lions, trailing by two and needing to show some kind of urgency, failed to register a shot attempt until a weak effort from distance right at Brad Guzan from Perea in the 62nd minute. So, it took 17 minutes to even get an attempt.
In that 17 minutes, Moreno had three chances, sending one well over the bar, hitting a free kick wide, and then hitting a shot just wide after a Michel turnover. Barco also fired just over the net in transition after a Pereyra turnover.
Nani fired a shot from distance in the 71st minute but didn’t get the placement he wanted and it ended up comfortable for Guzan on only the second Orlando shot on target.
Barco put the game away a minute later. Brooks Lennon sent a ball over the top that found Barco, who moved to his right around Ruan, avoided a tackle attempt from Carlos, then beat Grinwis to make it 3-0 in the 72nd minute.
Ezequiel Barco makes it 3-0 in favor of @ATLUTD! pic.twitter.com/mXG7QG61CA
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 11, 2021
Pareja made some substitutions, including sending Tesho Akindele on for his 200th career MLS appearance, but nothing really changed. Grinwis made two huge stops late on Lennon and George Bello to keep it at 3-0 but the Lions couldn’t threaten Guzan.
Atlanta finished with a whopping 18-8 advantage in shots (5-2 on target), more possession (55.1%-44.9%), more corners (4-3), and a higher passing percentage (87.8%-82.7%). It was simply a terrible game for Orlando and perhaps behind only the trip to play New York City FC that preceded the seven-game unbeaten streak.
“We have to accept it, we have to move on, and the boys will be prepared for the next game,” Pareja said.
The Lions return home for a midweek match-up against Montreal at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday night.
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
Familiarize yourself with the Colorado Rapids, courtesy of someone who knows them best.
Another Orlando City game is almost upon us, as the Lions look to both extend their five-match unbeaten run and pick up two wins in a row. This week sees the Colorado Rapids come to town for the first home game of June.
A match with the Rapids means I spoke to Matt Pollard, of Burgundy Wave. That’s another site that has gone independent and the folks over there are continuing to provide great coverage of the Rapids, so make sure to check them out!
What were some of the big incoming and outgoing transfers for the Rapids ahead of this season?
Matt Pollard: The three biggest incoming players in terms of expectations were Kévin Cabral, Connor Ronan, and Andreas Maxsø.
Cabral is probably the highest-risk, highest-reward signing when it comes to the Rapids going after distressed assets. So far, it hasn’t panned out. He presses well, but that’s about it. The same issues he had at LA Galaxy (getting called offside, not finishing) are present here in Colorado. The difference is, he’s the focal point instead of the third player opposing defenses worry about.
Ronan and Maxsø have been great. Ronan was brought in to play alongside Jack Price. When Price went down for the season, Ronan stepped into the No. 6 role and adjusted well. He’s tidy at the back, works hard off the ball, and is one of the better assist providers on the team. Maxsø has been good defensively in the air and good at emergency defending. The Rapids typically give up goals by making a series of small errors. Rarely is the Great Dane one of those players who makes a mistake on a goal.
It’s hard to say if there were any significant departures from last year’s team. Most fans weren’t surprised or bummed out when Gyasi Zardes signed for Austin FC. The left back position has been an issue, so maybe Lucas Esteves. But he had some attitude issues and was hot headed. Robin Fraser’s such a culture guy, he wasn’t worth the headache.
It’s been a difficult start to the season for Colorado, what has been the biggest reason for the team’s struggles?
MP: Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Price went down for the season in his second appearance. Diego Rubio has had three separate injuries. Maxsø was under concussion protocol for two games. I’ve lost count of how many players have had hamstring issues. As I’ve written about previously for Burgundy Wave, the infrastructure at Dick’s (Sporting Goods Park) is showing its age. The team had a really bad stretch in March and April with practice fields and winter sticking around. They’ve missed key players. They’ve had limited depth. All while playing eight games in May. Hopefully a full week of training has them healthy and refocused for Saturday.
With plenty of games left to play and only sitting six points out of the play-in spots, the Rapids are far from dead and buried. What needs to happen for Colorado to turn the season around?
MP: Get healthy and get going offensively. Rubio is still their only reliable chance creator. All their goal scorers have been streaky. If Rubio comes back healthy and can give the Rapids the production he had last year (a club-record 16 goals and seven assists), that would be fantastic. Add in Cabral, Jonathan Lewis, and Braian Galván having a good finishing streak, and they could be ok. Orlando fans should be wary of Michael Barrios coming off the bench tomorrow. All 12 of his goals for the Rapids have come in the second half.
Are there any players who will be unavailable for selection due to call-ups, injuries, suspensions, etc? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
MP: The injury report just came out and there are only four players on it. That’s tied for the lowest of the season! Rubio is questionable, and Fraser’s been really cautious with his key players coming back from injury. I can’t see him getting more than 20 minutes Saturday. Moïse Bombito is suspended for a harsh second yellow against San Jose, so expect Lalas Abubakar to start at center back. Price is out, as mentioned previously. Max Alves is still removed from team activities as he’s under investigation for participation in a sports gambling scheme in his native Brazil.
Marko Ilic; Danny Wilson, Andreas Maxsø, Lalas Abubakar; Sam Nicholson, Keegan Rosenberry; Connor Ronan, Bryan Acosta, Cole Bassett; Jonathan Lewis, Darren Yapi.
I think Orlando wins a tight, ugly game. Oscar Pareja knows how to poop-house the Rapids. 1-0, Facundo Torres scores. I do think we’ll see one of the better performances from the Rapids of this winless stretch for what that’s worth.
Thank you to Matt for the excellent info and helping get us up to speed on the Rapids. Vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 6/9/23
Orlando City gets ready for the Colorado Rapids, OCB faces FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday, U-20 World Cup final is set, and more.
How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Friday finds you well as we gear up for a weekend filled to the brim with Orlando soccer. My friends are taking me out for teppanyaki and scorpion bowls tonight, so it should be a pretty nice day on my end. Hopefully your Friday goes smoothly as well. Now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
Orlando City Prepares for the Colorado Rapids
The Lions are on a five-game unbeaten run as they get ready for a home match tomorrow night against the Colorado Rapids. Facundo Torres scored twice in the team’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Hopefully he can keep the momentum rolling against a Colorado team that’s allowed 25 goals this season and sits last in the league in points per game, with just two wins in 17 matches. Pedro Gallese also recorded his 26th clean sheet for Orlando in last week’s win, and could make his 100th appearance as a Lion tomorrow night. The Lions will have to keep an eye on Irish midfielder Connor Ronan, who has six assists in his first season with the Rapids.
Orlando City B Aims to Bounce Back at Home
After a 3-0 defeat to Toronto FC II in Canada this past weekend, Orlando City B will look to right the ship on Sunday at home against FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions are unbeaten at home this season, winning four of their six games at Osceola Heritage Park. The last time these two teams played was in August of last year, with Cincy winning in the penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw. Although he didn’t score in that match, OCB forward Jack Lynn scored three goals against Cincinnati last year and currently leads OCB with six goals this season. Sunday’s match should be a good opportunity for OCB’s offense to bounce back against a leaky Cincy defense.
USMNT Players Focused Despite Coaching Search
With European seasons over, American players who have been plying their trade abroad are back in the U.S. to prepare for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup this month. The team will be coached by B.J. Callaghan in an interim capacity while the search for a head coach continues. Although not having a permanent head coach for these tournaments isn’t ideal, Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman spoke on how the team still knows how to get the job done.
“We’re a team that has a very strong team chemistry, strong culture within our group. And we know that for us, not much has changed right now,” said Zimmerman. “We know the same principles, style of play, expectations, accountability – all those things are the same. So I think that’s player-driven, to hold each other accountable to the standards that we’ve set over the past four years. BJ, he’s on top of it. He’s knowledgeable about what we want to do, how we’re going to go about these games.”
The roster includes many of the players who featured in the World Cup last year, but the striker position is one to watch due to the new faces involved. Folarin Balogun is with the team for the first time and it will be interesting to see how he measures up against Ricardo Pepi, Alex Zendejas, and Jesus Ferreira. We will get to see who spearheads the USMNT’s attack next Thursday, when the Yanks take on Mexico in Las Vegas.
Italy and Uruguay Reach U-20 World Cup Final
Only two teams remain in the U-20 World Cup after Italy and Uruguay each won their semifinals. Uruguay, which beat the U.S. in the quarterfinals, beat Israel 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second half from Anderson Duarte. In Italy’s semifinal against South Korea, Cesare Casadei’s terrific tournament continued as he gave Italy the lead in the 14th minute. South Korea equalized soon after with a penalty kick, but 17-year-old forward Simone Pafundi scored a nice free kick to send Italy into the final.
The final will take place on Sunday at 5 p.m., with the third-place match set for 1:30 p.m. It will be Italy’s first time playing in a U-20 World Cup final, while it will be Uruguay’s third time after losing in 1997 and 2013.
- American defender Josh Wynder is headed to Benfica. The Portuguese club signed the 18-year-old from USL Championship club Louisville City for a reported $1.2 million transfer fee, which would be a record amount for a USL player.
- FC Cincinnati and the Houston Dynamo will host in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. Both matches will be on Aug. 23, with the Dynamo playing Real Salt Lake and Cincinnati facing Inter Miami.
- Speaking of FC Cincinnati, the club is reportedly close to signing Gabonese forward Aaron Boupendza as a Designated Player for a $7 million transfer fee. Boupendza had 11 goals in 17 appearances for Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League this past season.
- Brooklyn will be home to a USL League One team, which will begin playing in the 2025 season.
- Liverpool agreed to buy back its Melwood training ground with the intention of turning it into a training facility for its women’s team.
- Czech police stated that 23 West Ham and Fiorentina fans were arrested for their actions while in Prague for the Europa Conference League.
- Liverpool signed midfielder Alexis Mac Allister to a contract through 2028. The 24-year-old had 12 goals and three assists last season for Brighton.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids: Three Keys to Victory
What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Rapids this Saturday night?
Orlando City is back home in Exploria Stadium and hosting the Colorado Rapids this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off a big road win over the New York Red Bulls, and will want to extend the five-match unbeaten streak. What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points at home this weekend?
Survive the First Half
Colorado has been better in the first half of matches this season than in the second half. The Lions can expect the Rapids to come out strong, looking for an early goal. If Orlando City can play smart on defense, maintain possession, and limit Colorado’s chances for the first 45 minutes, plus stoppage time, the odds of winning at home go up.
I’m most worried about the first 15 minutes and the last five minutes of this half. It’s going to be contingent upon the effective midfield pairing of Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena to break down the Rapids’ attack. Araujo was in training this week despite going off injured in the last match, indicating it wasn’t that serious and he may be available. Cartagena has quietly been fantastic the last few matches, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue.
Behind that pair is another line of defense, including Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos, that can clean up anything else that gets through. Carlos has mostly been great, although he’s had a few less-than-stellar matches, and Jansson has been excellent. If Orlando City weathers the first half in good shape, I’ll feel better about the Lions getting three points.
Ride the Hot Feet
Oscar Pareja has trotted out the same starting lineup the last couple of matches, and I don’t expect he will mess with the success. After the last match, Ivan Angulo and Facundo Torres will be feeling pretty good, and we don’t want those confidence-boosting performances to be wasted. There will be plenty of time to let them rest if they can help provide the team with a two-goal lead after the 60 minute mark.
The same goes for Ercan Kara. No he didn’t have a goal last match, but that had more to do with dealing with the New York Red Bulls press than anything else. His last goal was three matches ago against Inter Miami, but he is putting the work in regardless, and I think he’s primed to find the back of the net against Colorado.
Regardless of the scoreline, look for Pareja to bring on Martin Ojeda and Duncan McGuire to either put the match away or look for a positive result. Duncan can be a terror against a team that doesn’t play well in the second half, and Ojeda seems due for a goal. He certainly isn’t shy about taking chances, and eventually one of them is going to result in a goal.
Too many times in Orlando City history, the Lions have played a team on a winless streak — the Rapids haven’t won in their last six matches — and been the team to let the opposition get back on track. The Lions are also riding a five-match undefeated streak heading into Saturday’s match. It’s the type of match that tends to worry scarred Orlando City supporters, and I have those bad thoughts and feelings as well. As Michael Scott said on The Office, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.” If Orlando City could not feed into that phenomenon, it would be great.
I think that sometimes the Lions want to give the home crowd a win so badly that they get nervous and end up pressing too hard, or trying to slip a pass into too tight of a window. When that happens, the natural flow of an offense that is looking better, passing better, and scoring goals will give the ball away cheaply. My suggestion is for the players is to just relax. Pretend it’s a road match if necessary, but just keep calm and let the match develop naturally.
That’s what I’ll be looking for this Saturday night from my seat in Exploria Stadium. Since I’ll be down for this one, please make sure to say hello if you see me.
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
PawedCast Episode 351: Colorado Rapids Preview, the Miami Messi Mess, and More
Lion Links: 6/9/23
Orlando City B vs. Toronto FC II: Final Score 3-0 as OCB Falls in Shortened Game
My First Orlando City Road Match: New York Red Bulls
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