Orlando City SC (9-12-7, 34 points) faced first place Atlanta United FC (15-9-3, 48 points) at Exploria Stadium Saturday night. Though the boys in purple fell to the Five Stripers 1-0, the 23,014 fans at the stadium were treated to a thriller.
Orlando battled with first place Atlanta from the start, giving them a solid challenge throughout the match. Lots and lots and lots of chances for the Lions, and word has it that Atlanta came into town tired.
But the champions prevailed when Josef Martinez scored in the 59th minute, breaking hopeful Orlando fans hearts.
“Obviously very disappointed.” Said Lions head coach James O’Connor “I think when you look at the game overall, I think we’ve had enough chances to win, in two or three games. I think unfortunately for us tonight, we’ve played very well, we’ve had exceptional chance creation, we just weren’t able to take our chances which is pretty hard to swallow. Very painful evening for us.”
A bright spot was that Orlando saw the debut of long awaited help in Mauricio Pereyra who had a solid night. Mauricio created 35 chances for the Lions.
The Five Stripers who attacked the Orlando back line like it was just another day at the office, just with no result until later in the match
Surprisingly, Orlando City managed 9 shots on goal in the first half, but the problem was that many went directly to Atlanta Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who had no trouble gathering them up.
Orlando’s Nani was a huge part of the Orlando attack, while the usually solid Tesho Akendali seemed trying to push through fatigue in the match was in the fight.
Tesho, and Chris Mueller, and others had great opportunities with great shot positions and fired bars over the crossbar. Name times, the Lions front line had multiple pass exchanges in and at the top of the box with no result. They just could not find the back of the net.
Atlanta on the other hand, had fewer chances, but were able to make at least one count when Ezequel Barco split two defenders after streaking up the middle of the field and deftly passed it back to Josef who sent it in for the games only goal.
Later in the match, Josef had an opportunity as he shook a defender and wound up one on one against Lions goalkeeper Brain Rowe. Josef lobbed the ball over Rowe’s reach to what looked like a sure goal, but it hit the post. Luck break for Orlando.
The Lions head out on the road to face San Jose on Saturday August 31 at 10:30 p.m. ET at Avaya Stadium.