Another trip to Orlando and another win for Atlanta United, who earned their sixth straight win in all competitions to retain their hold on the top spot in the Eastern Conference Friday.
Despite the Open Cup final in a few days time, Frank de Boer said he was fielding a strong side –– and he did just that, with Eric Remedi’s sub in for Jeff Larentowicz the only change from the side that beat Portland last weekend. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Florentin Pogba (DEF), Leandro González Pirez (DEF), Miles Robinson (DEF), Julian Gressel (DEF), Eric Remedi (MID), Darlington Nagbe (MID), Ezequiel Barco (MID), Justin Meram (FWD), Josef Martinez (FWD), Pity Martínez (FWD).
Orlando City came out pushing hard, looking for vengeance for all the past results between these two teams. Atlanta United’s defense bent but didn’t break as they held off the pressure from the speedy play from the Orlando City forward line. Chances were hard to come by but as the half continued, Atlanta United grew into the game with more possession on the ball and more chances on the Orlando City goal. But Ezequiel Barco’s deflected effort was the best effort of the half, with the Orlando City goalkeeper bobbling the powerful shot but keeping it out to send the match to half scoreless.
Atlanta United’s growth in the game continued into the second half, and a moment of magic turned the match on his head. Ezequiel Barco got the ball deep in Atlanta United territory, sent a skidded low pass forward and took off, launching a counter attack into Orlando City’s defensive third. He found Josef Martinez then received the ball back, driving in the middle and taking defenders with him –– only to lay it back to Martinez, who made no mistake curling a far-post effort past the fingers of the Orlando City goalkeeper for his 12th straight match with a goal.
Orlando City fought until the final whistle, but Atlanta United were able to keep them out of the goal. Josef Martinez nearly doubled the lead, chipping the goalkeeper only for it to bounce off the post and out, while Leandro González Pirez’s audacious effort from near midfield nearly caught the Orlando City goalkeeper napping. But in the end, the one goal would be all they need, clinching a big three points in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
There’s no time to rest, with the U.S. Open Cup final against Minnesota United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium coming up on Tuesday. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’re there for the Five Stripes’ chance at a third trophy raise in their home in the past nine months. Click here to get your tickets now.