After a brief weather delay, Atlanta United renewed their rivalry with Orlando City SC for a midweek match at Exploria Stadium. A superb second-half goal from Thiago Almada powered Atlanta United to a 1-0 win over the recent Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champions. With the result, Atlanta wins back-to-back matches for the first time this season and picks up three massive points vital for the club's playoff hopes.
First half – Rainy weather in Orlando, Dom Dwyer starts, Josef Martínez available
There were no changes to the starting lineup for Gonzalo Pineda’s squad. The Atlanta United manager went with the same XI that he did in the team’s 4-2 win over Toronto FC last weekend. The only difference was Josef Martínez returned to the bench, available for the first time since suspension.
After a heavy downpour produced a 55-minute weather delay, the two teams kicked off at Exploria Stadium. In the eighth minute, Orlando City SC had a dangerous chance. Atlanta United defender Andrew Gutman had Iván Angulo marked, but perhaps gave the winger a little too much space. Looking for his first goal in MLS, Angulo aimed for the far side of the post and didn’t miss by much.
On a counterattack minutes later, Atlanta United created a dangerous opportunity themselves. After moving the ball patiently in the attacking third, a cross from Ronald Hernández was deflected and fell to Dom Dwyer in perfect position at the back post. The striker headed the ball down toward goal and nearly opened the scoring against his former team.
Atlanta United goalkeeper Raúl Gudiño made the first save of the night in the 21st minute. Midfielder Júnior Urso redirected a cross with a header, but Gudiño controlled the shot to keep Orlando City SC off the board.
Gudiño came up with another big moment in the 26th minute. Orlando City midfielder Mauricio Pereyra found a passing lane and sent the ball to striker Facundo Torres making a vertical run. Torres passed the ball low across the box right in front of Gudiño. Atlanta’s goalkeeper used his 6-foot-4 frame, along with help from his center back Alan Franco, to block the shot.
Atlanta United was inches away from a goal in the 36th minute. The midfield moved the ball quickly up the field, from Thiago Almada to Amar Sejdić, in a well-developing play. Sejdić made a beautiful pass to find Luiz Araújo for the end ball. The speedster got past one defender and the goalkeeper who came off his line, and Araújo shot on an open net. The ball rolled but lacked just enough pace to cross the goal line, and an Orlando City defender recovered in time to clear the ball.
In first-half stoppage time, Atlanta put together another good combination that led to a shot on goal. Almada received the ball with a deft touch from Santiago Sosa, turned and moved the ball to Dwyer. The striker laid it off to Gutman making a run, which left the fullback 1v1 with Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. Gutman opted to go high with his shot, but it wasn’t enough to lift over Gallese coming on and the goalkeeper blocked Atlanta’s chance to keep it 0-0 heading into the second 45.
Second half – Josef Martínez subs on, Thiago Almada scores the game-winning goal
In the 56th minute, Pineda made his first substitutions of the match. Josef Martínez came on and played for the first time since suspension. Midfielder Matheus Rossetto also subbed on, making his first appearance since August 6 in the 2-1 win over Seattle Sounders. They replaced Dwyer and Sejdić.
Orlando City SC nearly found the back of the net in the 65th minute. On a rapid attack, a clearance from Atlanta United put the ball in a dangerous area. Pereyra collected the loose ball, brought it down and delivered a formidable strike that went wide of goal.
In the 67th minute, Edwin Mosquera entered the match for Brooks Lennon.
Atlanta United broke through in the 72nd minute. After Orlando City SC cleared the ball on a corner kick from Almada, Atlanta regained possession and re-organized their attack. Almada received the ball and ran a give-and-go with Gutman. At close range, Almada cut the ball past one Orlando defender and sank a shot far post to give Atlanta United the go-ahead goal 1-0.
The goal was Almada's sixth of the season, second in as many matches. Gutman picks up his second assist of the season.
Atlanta United saw a familiar face in the 74th minute as Jake Mulraney subbed on for Orlando City SC. The midfielder from Ireland started the season with Atlanta United and was traded to Orlando in May.
In the 86th minute, Pineda made his final substitutions of the night for Atlanta United. Araújo and Almada came off for Ronaldo Cisneros and Caleb Wiley.
On the last play of the match, Gudiño made a big stop to preserve Atlanta United's 1-0 victory. Atlanta United gets its first back-to-back wins of the season and picks up three crucial points in the Eastern Conference standings, momentarily moving within two points of the playoff line.
Up next – Atlanta United hosts the Eastern Conference leaders
Atlanta United’s double match week continues Saturday, Sept. 17 when they host Eastern Conference leaders, Philadelphia Union. It’s Hispanic Heritage Night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so don’t wait and secure your seat today!