Atlanta United (10-7-3) are currently riding the longest win streak in the league, but they’ll face a stiff test to keep it going as they face Orlando City (8-8-5) for the second time in two weeks. Despite the quick eight-day turnaround, there will be some big changes for the team from the Sunshine State. Here’s what Five Stripe fans can expect from their opponent this week.
New Forward Line
Last week, Atlanta United was able to keep Orlando City’s front line of Giles Barnes and Carlos Rivas at arm’s length, with Orlando’s most threatening chances coming from set pieces. But there could be an entirely new front line for captain Michael Parkhurst and company to deal with this weekend. Cyle Larin, the team’s top scorer, is expected to play the full match after being limited to just a 30-minute cameo last weekend due to his international duties with the Canadian National Team.
Orlando also made one of the biggest splashes of this year’s MLS transfer market this week by bringing in Sporting Kansas City’s and newly-capped U.S. international Dom Dwyer in a blockbuster deal. Dwyer’s 55 goals in the past four seasons is tied for second most in the league during that stretch, and with Orlando tied for third-fewest goal in MLS this year, Dwyer will bring a boost to the front line. It’s yet to be seen if Saturday will be too soon to introduce him to the starting lineup, but Orlando City’s CEO did say Dwyer will play a part this weekend.
Stopping the Skid
Orlando City and their fans will be looking for revenge after last week’s loss, but there’s more than just local pride driving them to a win. The Lions are currently on one of their worst runs in team history. After winning six of their first seven league games, they’ve won only two of their 14 matches since. Much of that can be pinned on a dip in defensive form, with the team conceding twelves goals in their last six games and only keeping one clean sheet in the process. Meanwhile, Atlanta United is looking for their sixth-straight home win and have scored three or more goals in four of those five wins. They’ve outscored their opponents by a 15-5 margin during that stretch. Five Stripe fans will be hoping both of those trends continue at Bobby Dodd Stadium this week.
Kaká Heating Up
No discussion of Orlando City is complete without a mention of the former World Player of the Year in their midfield, the Brazilian Kaká. After a slower-than-usual start hampered by small injuries, the Brazilian maestro is starting to round into form. He had four key passes leading to chances against Atlanta last weekend, giving him nine in his last two games. That’s after just making ten key passes in his first twelve regular season appearances. The good news for Atlanta United fans is midfield anchor Jeff Larentowicz is also in red-hot form. His seven interceptions last week in Orlando is tied for the most-ever for an Atlanta United player in a league game. The midfield battle will go a long way to determining who takes the three points in this match.
Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on FOX and the FOX Sports Go 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. The game is sold out, but there are still some Ticketmaster Verified Resale tickets available here. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.