Villalba’s late equalizer earns Atlanta a deserved point against Orlando

Fans want their team to fight until the end, and Atlanta United did just that to win a well-earned point against Orlando City with a late equalizer in the club’s final game at Bobby Dodd.

With Josef Martinez still sidelined with an injury, Tata Martino opted for the same lineup that beat Orlando City on the road last weekend: Brad Guzan (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Anton Walkes (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Carlos Carmona (CM), Yamil Asad (LW), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Tito Villalba (ST).

The game jumped right out of the gates with Orlando looking for revenge from last week’s defeat in Orlando City Stadium and hitting the post in the first few minutes. But Atlanta United centerbacks snuffed out the threat of new signing Dom Dwyer and strike partner Cyle Larin as the half progressed and Atlanta grew into the game. Miguel Almirón had the first big chance for Atlanta in the 15th minute, beating the Orlando goalkeeper from distance but just inches wide and off the post.

Almirón would hit the post again in the first half after a nice passage of play on the left, but Orlando would stop Atlanta’s growing momentum with a goal of their own. Orlando hit a goal kick long that fell to the feet of Kaká thirty yards out and his first-time shot swerved inside the post to take the 1-0 lead just before halftime.

The second half continued much like the first with Atlanta dominating possession – they’d finish with nearly 2/3 of it – but struggling to break through Orlando’s defensive setup. Atlanta racked up 17 shots on the day, and it was the last one of the match that would prove vital. As the clock ticked into the first of five minutes of extra time, Yamil Asad finally picked the lock of the Orlando defense with a beautifully-timed ball into the stride of Tito Villalba. The 23-year old argentine needed no second invitation, slotting coolly past the goalkeeper to secure the well-deserved equalizer.

Villalba’s second goal in as many weeks against Orlando City brought his total to a team-best ten goals on the season. The key pass also marked Yamil Asad’s tenth assist for Atlanta, tied for the best in Major League Soccer this year.

The draw – in front of a ninth-straight sell-out crowd of 45,009 people – means Atlanta United sit at 34 points in the Eastern Conference table, three points behind New York City FC in third place. The team now goes on a month-long road trip, starting with Sporting Kansas City next weekend. The team will return to Atlanta for their first game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 10th to face FC Dallas. Make sure to secure your spot for the historic match here