The Orlando City Lions finally met their match last night when Atlanta United’s 5 stripers defeated them 2-1 in front of a crowd of 24,323 raucous fans at Orlando City stadium. Orlando City has yet to defeat Atlanta in 4 attempts, with their best result being a draw.
The Lions entered the match knowing what was at stake. The squad had been on fire, knocking off six straight opponents this year, and looking strong once the core of the team filled in the line up and got acclimated. Atlanta United came off of there second loss of the season after a loss to Sporting KC on Wednesday, but still held on to the number one position in the standings.
Atlanta started the game aggressively. If you dropped your napkin in the first minute of the match, once you picked it up and got back to the match, you’d see Atlanta’s Josef Martinez or Miguel Almiron fighting through the Orlando offense. Sloppy passing and miscues gave Atlanta some opportunities in the early first quarter. Coach Jason Kreis chalked that up to emotions.
“Obviously an emotional affair tonight,” Lions head coach Jason Kreis said. “Passionate affair from the crowd to the staff to the players. I think everybody put everything that they had into this game. It’s unfortunate because the way we played the second half, on a different night – on a lot of different nights already this season – we walk out of here with a draw. But some things went against us, for sure. Some decisions went against us, some of the play, some of our thoughts in the first half surely went against us.”
Emotions were definitely high in the purple palace, with attacking midfielder Sacha Kljestan and left back Mohamed El-Munir getting into it after a failed attack late in the match. Kreis said the two players apologized to each other and it was water under the bridge after the match was over.
Orlando’s fans even showed their emotion by throwing trans and debris onto the field during stoppage time. Orlando City released an official statement:
“Orlando City SC does not support or condone the unacceptable actions taken by fans at Orlando City Stadium during Sunday’s match against Atlanta United. Fans are strictly prohibited from throwing debris or objects onto the field. The Club is using available resources to identify offenders, who will be penalized for their behavior in accordance with Major League Soccer and Orlando City Stadium regulations.
Orlando City SC takes great pride in the passion of its supporters and how they make Orlando City Stadium the most difficult venue to play at in MLS, but the safety of fans, players, officials and staff members is our top priority.”
One of the major “decisions” against the Lions was a foul called on a tackle in the box early in the match. Referee Alan Kelly called a clear foul that the fans found questionable. Kelly saw no need to review the play. Martinez easily scored the match’s first goal on the resulting penalty kick.
The goal added to another trend that Orlando has been plagued with this year and in the past few seasons, not drawing first blood and being forced to come from behind. This year, the Lions gave up the first goal eight times. They did manage to come back in five to win or tie the matches.
After the first goal, Orlando’s emotions went through the roof, making mistakes and giving the sure footed 5 stripers the opportunity for their second goal. Ezequiel Barco scored United’s second goal of the match in the 31st minute on a deft pass from Greg Garza.
Orlando returned to form in the second half and managed to finally put consistent pressure on the Atlanta defense. The lions managed to score get into the match when Justin Meram finally scored his first goal with Orlando City, slotting home a rebound in the 58th minute. But it was too little, too late.
The Lions next faces Toronto FC on Friday, May 18, at 8 p.m. ET