ORLANDO, FL – Orlando City SC (12-12-6, 42 points) battled Atlanta United FC (10-12-9, 39 points) on Wednesday night at a soggy Exploria Stadium.
The two rivals battle for the majority of the match to a scoreless tie late into the match on another rain soaked night at Exploria Stadium. It was a missed coverage in the 72nd minute that left Thiago Almada who broke through for an open score against Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese.
Gallese had made a heroic save in the 71st minute, thrilling the over 15,000 fans in attendance.
The Lions needed the points in this match as the difference between the 5th playoff spot and being out of contention is only 3 points. As Rolando heads into the final match on Saturday at home against Toronto, things are tight.
Orlando Head Coach Oscar Pareja felt the pressure, and was passionate about the importance of this game and things to come.
“It is unfortunate at this point” said Pareja, ” and especially with this rival we came up with this result, but I have to say the boys put all the effort there. Their energy, their character, it was there. Simply, we didn’t do what we had to do in the last third. If you are not sharp in those moments, it is difficult. The other team had one or two chances and that is why they won.”
Pareja went on to express unwavering support for his team, as he has seen nothing but fight from them.
“They have been pushing and I back them up 100 percent. This is a very competitive team, this team is very advanced and this is a team that has shown that they can compete. I love them. I am proud of them. We will fight. We will fight. Today is sour, but we will fight. This is a team that I love. This is our team, these are my boys and I love them. We are going to make it happen.”
Orlando opened the match with an aggressive stance, pushing immediately into the Atlanta third and maneuvering in the upper and outer areas of the Five Stripers’ box to get chances.
Orlando managed six shots in the first half, but the problem, which has been their problem this year, is that only one shot was on target.
Atlanta had 5 shots in the first half, but three of them were quality.
Atlanta brought their lie higher in the second half, and later in the half, brought in striker Joe Martine, and their front line played with a stronger confidence.
Former Orlando City Lion Dom Dwyer looked good on the pitch an was very active in the Atlanta press when he was in.
In the 71st minute, Atlanta came close to scoring off of a corner kick, with Santiago Sosoa. nearly heading in the corner, but being snagged on a diving save by Gallese.
One minute later, Andrew Gutman wasss on the Orlando Line, and managed to split a ball pas Benji Michel to Almada. Almada drove pass Andres Perera for a shot past Gallese and the winning score.
Orlando’s final match of the regular season is on Saturday Toronto FC to Exploria Stadium . Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.