Atlanta United returns from the international break with a big home match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the 5-Stripes welcome rivals Orlando City SC to town. Atlanta has won four of its last five matches coming into Friday’s contest. Orlando sits in second place in the Eastern Conference as the Lions are looking to make back-to-back postseason appearances. Atlanta sits just three points below the playoff line coming into this match and begins a three-match home stand. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
No better first win than vs. Orlando
Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda is looking for his first win with the 5-Stripes and there would be no better opponent to beat than Orlando City. Atlanta United dominated the series between these two Southeastern rivals from the jump, racking up six wins and two draws in the first eight league meetings. While Orlando has found a little success recently, Atlanta has only lost once at home against the Lions. In the 14 total fixtures in MLS play against Orlando, Atlanta United has scored 20 goals.
Pineda will be looking for his trio of attacking midfielders to continue to make an impact. Marcelino Moreno leads ATLUTD with seven goals and ranks third among all MLS players in duels won with 173. Moreno, Ezequiel Barco and Luiz Araújo are among the top dribblers in the league, helping Atlanta United to the highest dribble success rate as a team in MLS at 61.4% coming into Friday’s match. The 5-Stripes will look for those players to continue to deliver in order to secure three points.
Keep eyes on Nani
Orlando City’s captain Nani has been having another excellent season for the Lions. He leads the squad with nine goals and seven assists. When he’s given time and space to attack, Nani has the quality to decide a match by himself. It will be important for Atlanta United’s defense to have their eyes on Nani at all times. Orlando possesses several other threats to watch as well in Daryl Dike (three goals) and Sylvester van der Water, who scored a goal and had the game-winning assist the last time Atlanta played against Orlando. Atlanta United’s defense will need to be in top form on Friday night.
Continue to create chances from all parts of field
In the early part of the season, many of Atlanta United’s attacks came down the right side of the pitch. Brooks Lennon is one of the best in the league at creating chances (51 created chances; 6th in MLS). One of the things Atlanta United has done a better job of late is to balance the attack. Whether it’s George Bello down the left flank, or Barco and Moreno through the middle, Atlanta United’s attack has shown signs of being a threat from different areas on the pitch. The addition of Luiz Araújo also gives the team a speed threat on the dribble that should continue to help with creating transition opportunities. Converting those chances will be one of the big keys for Friday’s match.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Friday night. Fans can tune in nationally on FS1 to watch on TV. The match will also be broadcast on radio at Sports Radio 92.9 The Game.