Orlando City SC (7-16-2, 23 points) lost to Atlanta United (16-4-6, 54 points) on Friday in front of a crowd of 25,058 at Orlando City Stadium. The battle between first place Atlanta and Last place Orlando was more competitive than expected. Orlando’s loss, however, as a severe disappointment to Orlando head coach James O’Conner.
“Obviously very disappointed. It was a game we wanted to try and win for the supporters. Very, very disappointed,” Lions head coach James O’Connor said. “We need to be honest with ourselves. Look, we can point and we can say we had some key players missing, but again, for me they’re excuses. I think for where we want to get to and where we’re going to get to, we need levels of performance that are higher.”
In this match, Orlando pulled back on defense and took maneuvering space away from the high scoring Five Stripers. But mistakes, gave Atlanta the openings they needed.
Atlanta was able to score first in the first half when in the 20th minute Atlanta’s Ezequiel Barco blasted a free kick that Orlando Goalie Joe Bendik almost caught but fumbled. Leandro González Pirez was there to put away the rebound.
City fought back through the half, and eventually got the equalizer in the 39th minute when Will Johnson found Scott Sutter in the box. Sutter drilled a right-footed shot from 17 yards out that whizzed past Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
This match was well anticipated as Atlanta striker Josef Martinez needed only one goal to set the MLS single-season scoring recored. Martinez, though quiet in the first half, ultimately would not be denied.
In the 74th minute, Martinez worked his way past Orlando’s Jonathan Spector and was able to chip a ball over Bendik for his 28th goal of the season, setting the record.
Atlanta United controlled more of the possession in the second half (64.9 percent) and Orlando City mustered just two shots. Both were on target.
Orlando City will keep trying to snap out of its slump when the Lions host the Philadelphia Union Sept. 1 at Orlando City Stadium.