Atlanta United continues its MLS campaign on the road at Orlando on Friday night. The rivalry matchup is an important one for the 5-Stripes as they look to get back in the win column and start their climb up the standings. Orlando is once again one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, entering Friday’s contest in third place in the conference standings. This will be the second time these two teams meet at Exploria Stadium this year, with the first meeting ending in a 0-0 draw on the opening day of the MLS season. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Get the goal monkey off your back
Throughout its time in MLS, Atlanta United has prided itself as one of the most attacking sides in the league. That’s the style and brand of soccer the 5-Stripes want to play every time out. They tallied 70 goals in each of the team’s first two seasons. They scored 58 goals in 2019. The 5-Stripes need to get back in that scoring groove. The past few matches have resulted in several created chances, but the final touch, the final product just hasn’t been there. There is a belief among the group that once the ball goes in, the floodgates could open and the team could on a roll. They just need to find that first goal to get the monkey off their back and push on.
Keep the Lions den quiet
Orlando City has been an improved side over the last couple of seasons. Manager Oscar Pareja guided the team to its best regular season finish last year and once again has the Lions playing well. Especially at home, the team has made it difficult for opponents. Since the start of 2020, Orlando has a 10-2-5 (W-L-T) mark at home. It will be important for Atlanta United to play well early and keep the Exploria Stadium crowd quiet.
Orlando features several top players, led by the captain Nani. The Portuguese star leads the team with seven goals scored. His midfield partner Mauricio Pereyra leads the squad with six assists this year. Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele and Chris Mueller are other Orlando players who have found the net multiple times this season. Atlanta’s defense will have its work cut out for them, but the 5-Stripes are the only team so far to hold Orlando scoreless at home this season.
Let Moreno orchestrate the attack
Marcelino Moreno has been pushed into a more central and more free role over the last two matches, and the Argentine has responded. He’s taken four shots each against Cincinnati and Columbus (both season-highs for Moreno). Since July 16, Moreno has created 13 chances, which is tied for second in MLS in that time frame. He also got a full 90 minutes under his belt playing alongside Josef Martinez last time out, and the two players had some promising combination play. Atlanta United needs to continue to let Moreno orchestrate the attack and goals will follow with the amount of chances Moreno and the rest of the team are creating now.
Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. ET at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on Friday night. The match between Atlanta United and Orlando City will be nationally televised on ESPN or fans can tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game on the radio to hear the action.