On Friday night, Atlanta United return to MLS play as they travel to the sunshine state to face their southern neighbors Orlando City SC for the first time in the history of the two clubs. Atlanta (9-7-3) are looking to continue their hot streak and grab a fourth-straight win, while Orlando (8-7-5) are hoping to cease their recent struggles at home. Catch all the action at Orlando City Stadium starting at 7:00 p.m. EST on ESPN or via WatchESPN.
Ahead of this weekend’s Eastern Conference clash, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot.
1) Take Advantage of Missing Outlet
Due to Gold Cup duties with the Canadian Men’s National Team, Orlando striker Cyle Larin will be unavailable for Friday night’s match against Atlanta. The 2015 number one overall SuperDraft pick leads the team in goals with eight on the year and has recorded 39 over the past three seasons. Without their 6’ 2” front man providing a constant physical presence at the point of their system, Orlando will be without their most productive goal-scoring outlet, particularly when relieving pressure and holding up possession in their offensive third. Atlanta’s high press system could cause serious problems for the Lions without that safety valve.
2) Martinez the Menace
Despite missing more than half of the season so far with a quad injury, Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez has been the most productive goal scorer per 90 minutes in the league, leading his team with nine and averaging a goal per appearance. Most recently the 23-year-old Venezuelan international bagged a brace in Atlanta’s 4-2 Independence Day victory over San Jose. In a foot race, in the air, or with the ball at his feet, Martinez has proven that he’s the ultimate dynamic threat and Orlando will certainly have a handful to deal with on Friday.
3) All In
With both sides enjoying a lengthy break in competition and not having played since the first week of July, players are well rested and fans are extremely eager to see their teams back on the field. The infamous “Wall” in Orlando’s stadium will be raving with purple, and with Atlanta just down the road, there should be a fair amount of rowdy red, black and gold supporters in the mix as well. The stakes are high, one point separates the two sides in the table and Southeast bragging rights are on the line. Neither team has room to give an inch, it will surely be a full 90 minutes of raw intensity with players leaving it all on the field.
Follow the Match
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the WatchESPN App. You can listen to the game on the Atlanta United app or through one of our radio partners: 92.9 The Game or, for Spanish-speaking listeners, La Mejor Atlanta. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.