Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday evening matchup between Orlando City (5-4-4, 19 points) and Atlanta United (6-4-4, 22 points) at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). It’s the first of two scheduled meetings between the two MLS Eastern Conference rivals this season and the only one in Orlando. The Lions will make the return trip to Mercedez-Benz Stadium on July 15.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of tonight’s match.
The Lions are 3-8-6 in the all-time series against Atlanta in league play and 2-5-2 at home (2-6-2 in all competitions).
The most recent match in the series came last Sept. 14 at Exploria Stadium, with the Five Stripes winning 1-0 on a Thiago Almada goal despite the Lions out-shooting Atlanta, 20-10. The sides played to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting of last year on July 22 in Atlanta. Mauricio Pereyra staked the Lions to an early 1-0 lead on a beautiful free kick. Juan Jose Purata equalized in the 71st minute, but Atlanta bombarded Orlando the majority of the game and completely controlled the midfield, out-shooting the Lions 18-3 in the match.
Orlando had a six-match unbeaten streak in the series (3-0-3) snapped on Sept. 10, 2021, as the Five Stripes won 3-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. George Campbell and Ezequiel Barco scored for Atlanta, sandwiched around a Daryl Dike own goal to hand Gonzalo Pineda his first win as manager for United.
The second of three 2021 meetings took place July 30 at Exploria Stadium, with the Five Stripes taking the lead twice on goals by Josef Martinez and Marcelino Moreno, but the Lions not only fought back twice on strikes by Kyle Smith and Silvester van der Water, but Nani scored a late game winner by heading in VDW’s cross in Orlando City’s 3-2 win. The first meeting of that season between the two rivals came on opening day — April 17 — and they played to a 0-0 draw. It was an evenly matched game, with each team firing 11 shots and getting three on frame.
The final meeting of 2020 came on Oct. 28, when Orlando City ran away with a 4-1 win over Atlanta at Exploria Stadium. 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 a late goal for the visitors. Prior to that, the teams met in Atlanta on Oct. 7, 2020 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, 2020. 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. 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 to Atlanta, getting bounced from the U.S. Open Cup 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 building 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 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 each scored a goal and Miguel Almiron added a brace. Orlando lost the first matchup 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.
Hector Villalba’s two late goals in the first two meetings turned what could have been an Orlando 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 late. 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 lone score.
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.
Orlando is coming off a complete 3-1 road win at Inter Miami last Saturday and the Lions are on a modest, three-game unbeaten streak (1-0-2). That Miami match represented the first time the Lions have scored more than twice in a game this season. Martin Ojeda and Ercan Kara each posted a goal and an assist in the game. Orlando City, which is just 2-3-2 at home in 2023, has managed a draw and a win in its last two matches at Exploria Stadium. An 89th-minute equalizer prevented the Lions from carrying two straight home wins into this game.
Atlanta United is 1-3-3 on the road this season, including a 3-3 draw last week. The Five Stripes are 0-3-3 in their last six away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They appeared to be headed for a win last weekend before an 89th-minute strike by Georgios Koutsias allowed Chicago to level the score as both teams played with 10 men.
The names may change but Atlanta doesn’t stop playing aggressively with the ball. The Georgia club leads MLS in goals (28) this season but it’s a high-risk, high-reward style, as the Five Stripes have also conceded 24 goals, which is one fewer allowed than league-worst Charlotte’s 25. United’s tendency to overrun Orlando’s midfield has been problematic in the all-time series, so the Lions are going to need a big game from the central midfield and wingers and other attacking players will need to track back and to win balls back quickly to keep Atlanta from having counterattacking opportunities.
Greek forward Giorgos Giakoumakis has hit the ground running as Atlanta’s latest DP striker, scoring eight times already to lead the team. Almada is just behind with six goals and has eight assists to go along with them. Lennon is a talented attacker as well and has provided six assists this season. Purata gives the team a threat on set pieces.
“Atlanta is a team as well that is looking for their best form like many other teams in the league, including us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “They have guys up front that are crafty and some others with speed that we need to control. Similar to other Atlanta teams [in the past], they like to create sequences. We have contributed all of those things already to our game plan and we’ll be ready.”
Orlando City will be without Gaston Gonzalez (thigh), Luca Petrasso (thigh), and Michael Halliday (international duty), with Abdi Salim (knee) listed as questionable. Atlanta will be without Ozzie Alonso (ACL), Erik Lopez (ankle), Amar Sejdic (calf), Caleb Wiley (international duty), Luiz Araújo (red card suspension), and Franco Ibarra (yellow card accumulation). Brad Guzan (MCL) and Santiago Sosa (ankle) are listed as questionable.
- Our Intelligence Report gives more info on United from David McFarland of Atlanta blog Dirty South Soccer.
- The latest episode of The Mane Land PawedCast includes our key matchups and score predictions for the match as well as our exclusive interview with Orlando City defender Kyle Smith.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.
Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres.
Forward: Ercan Kara.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Thomas Williams, Rodrigo Schlegel, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Felipe, Martin Ojeda, Shak Mohammed, Ramiro Enrique, Duncan McGuire.
Atlanta United (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Defenders: Andrew Gutman, Miles Robinson, Juan Jose Purata, Ronald Hernandez.
Defensive Midfielders: Santiago Sosa, Matheus Rossetto.
Attacking Midfielders: Derrick Etienne, Thiago Almada, Brooks Lennon.
Forward: Giorgos Giakoumakis.
Bench: Quentin Westberg, Luis Abram, Aiden McFadden, Noah Cobb, Ajani Fortune, Tyler Wolff, Machop Chol, Miguel Berry.
REF: Allen Chapman.
AR1: Brian Dunn.
AR2: Tom Felice.
4TH: Justin Howard.
VAR: Pierre-Luc Lauziere.
AVAR: Robert Schaap.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV/Live Stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Accion 97.9 and 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the match. Go City!