ORLANDO – Orlando City SC (8-4-4, 28 points) defeated Atlanta United FC (2-6-8, 14 Points) 3-2 in a thriller at Exploria Stadium on Friday Night.
This was a night after a difficult 5-0 thumping to NYCFC, where Pedro Galesse was injured. so it was time for the next mad to step up.
That man was Homegrown goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar, who made his MLS debut on Friday. He had to make one save in 90 minutes of play.
Atlanta returned to Exploria Stadium with scoring phenom Josef Martinez back at the point, and he did not disappoint. With only 47 ticks from of the clock, Martinez took a chance and blasted a curbing shot that expertly curled into the upper right corner of the net, giving Atlanta the initial lead. It was the fastest goal in Atlanta history.
Ruan was back to being a threat to opposing defenses, and he was back in form on Friday.
In the 43rd minute, Nani fired in a corner kick that started to drift a little low. Kyle Smith lowered is head and popped a low header in to the net past Alec Kahn for the equalizer.
“The players were incredible today, ” Said Orlando Head Coach Oscar Pareja “just trying to get through some hurdles there with the first goal that they scored in the first 45 seconds and we needed to overcome that and also the second goal that was another difficult moment. I think we showed what we’re made of, what the team is.”
Starting the second half, Atlanta was back in business, coming out just as strong and poised as Orlando continued to gain confidence as time passed.
The Lions had off times, crosses, passes with too much touch, and errant passes, but those dwindled as the game progressed.
Atlanta’s Marcelino Moreno took an open shot from 30 feet out that newbie Orlando keeper Mason Stajduhar had no chance at touching, and the Five Stripers took a 2-1 lead.
In the 75th minute, Orlando Coach Oscar Pareja brought in Sylvester van der Water and Tesho Akindele, (Tesho coming straight off of a Gold Cup match in Houston for Team Canada.)
” Tesho showed his dedication.” Said Pareja “He called me when he got back in town, and told me that he had enough legs for us tonight. So dedicated.”
van der Water made an almost immediate impact in the 79th minute when he took a ball that was headed across from Benji Michel and inched it into the goal for another equalizer for the Lions.
In the 87th minute, Nani headed in the game winner, with an assist by Van der Water.
The 3-2 score does not indicate the chances that Orlando hat\d at their fingertips. Orlando shot 15 total shots, with 9 on target, versus 6 total shots for Atlanta and only three on goal.
Orlando had raw energy, but were off on timing and precision.
Atlanta was cool, calm, and collected, were very controlled, but didn’t have a lot of opportunities.
Orlando is home again next Wednesday against rival Inter-Miami CF