It’s one of the first matches many Atlanta United fans circle on the calendar: the Five Stripes’ neighbors to the South, Orlando City, coming to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the third time in the history of a budding rivalry. Atlanta United are in red-hot form with four wins in their past five matches, and they’ll be looking to keep that streak alive in a jam-packed May as they try to push their way up the Eastern Conference Standings –– with the added bonus of regional pride against a team they’ve never lost to before.
Tickets for the match are still available here, so be there and be loud and proud. But if you can’t make it to the stadium, make sure to tune in at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX or FOX Sports GO. For all the details on how to follow the match, click here.
Atlanta United (4-3-2)
After a bumpy start to the season, the Five Stripes have been shooting up the table over the past month as one of only two teams with four wins in their past five matches. A huge part of that success has been down to their rock-solid defense, who have conceded the fewest goals in the league so far this year and held a high-flying Toronto FC attack to zero shots on target on Wednesday, only the second time the team has done that in its history. Miles Robinson and Leandro González Pirez have been a powerful, rock-solid partnership in the middle of defense. Eric Remedi and Darlington Nagbe teamed up to mark Toronto star Alejandro Pozuelo out of the match on Wednesday, while Jeff Larentowicz waits in the wings if needed. And while injuries have plagued the squad at the fullback positions, a rotating cast of Franco Escobar, Michael Parkhurst and Brek Shea have gotten the job done incredibly in front of Brad Guzan in the Atlanta United goal. The squad has four clean sheats in their past five matches, and another one this weekend would go a long way toward securing victory.
The attack has been defined by a breakout season from Ezequiel Barco so far this season, but Atlanta United will have to make do without him for the time being with the Argentine prodigy away representing his country at the U-20 World Cup. That was no problem on Wednesday. Tito Villalba notched his first goal of the season in Barco’s place against Toronto, while Pity Martinez had arguably his best performance in an Atlanta United shirt to date as he rounds into full fitness and continues to gel with his attacking teammates. Josef Martinez has added stellar hold-up play and creative passing to his repertoire, but with five goals in his last three matches against Orlando City, he’ll be eager to get on the scoresheet himself. And don’t forget about Julian Gressel, who added another goal in the midweek matchup as he quietly puts together yet another very solid start to the season from the wing.
The games are coming thick and fast for the Five Stripes, but with a packed, full-venue crowd roaring them on, they’ll be hoping to continue their form to keep their spotless record against Orlando intact.
Orlando City (3-4-3)
After a disappointing season that saw Orlando City below the playoff line in 2018, Atlanta United’s neighbors to the South added some key pieces in the offseason that they hope will give them the edge over the Five Stripes for the first time in team history. That all starts with a DP Signing in the front line in Portuguese legend and former Manchester United star Nani, who leads the team with five goals so far this season. He joins Orlando regular and former U.S. Men’s National Team player Dom Dwyer and a fellow new addition Tesho Akindele in the front line to form a fast and physical attack, with one of the best rookies in MLS last season in Chris Mueller ready to provide a spark off the bench.
But despite a talented attack, Orlando City’s negative goal difference points to a vulnerability in the back line that Atlanta United’s players will be hopeful they can attack. While Orlando has played just one more match than the Five Stripes, Lions goalkeeper Brian Rowe has been forced into more than twice as many saves and conceded twice as many goals as Brad Guzan so far this season. Senegalese defender Lamine Sané and Swedish center back Robin Jansson have been the preferred pairing in the middle of the defense so far, with newcomers Ruan and Joao Moutinho the usual choices on the wings. With Atlanta United putting up seven goals in their two matches against Orlando at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they’ll be hoping for more of the same on Sunday against a team with just two clean sheets so far this year.
Wednesday is shaping up to be quite the matchup in a budding rivalry between two teams hoping to climb up the table, so make sure to get your tickets here. Make sure to tune in at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX or FOX Sports GO, or listen to the match via 92.9 The Game, La Mejor Atlanta or via the Atlanta United App. For more info on how to follow all the action, click here.