Atlanta United continued their red-hot form with their fourth straight win Sunday, keeping their unbeaten streak alive against Orlando City with a 1-0 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Frank de Boer kept much of the same lineup that won over Toronto FC in the midweek match, bringing Michael Parkhurst into the left back position for Brek Shea to bring some fresh legs into the lineup. The full Starting XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Michael Parkhurst (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Tito Villalba (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Julian Gressel (RW).
Pity Martínez became a legend in Argentina for scoring in big rivalry matches, so it’s no surprise how he opened his account for Atlanta United. With 14 minutes showing on the clock, Tito Villalba found himself in acres of space down the left wing. He let his pace take charge and laid it off to Pity Martinez, who slammed an unstoppable rocket of a finish past the Orlando City goalkeeper, inside the far post and into the top corner. It was a clinical finish, and one that sent the red and black crowd into raptures.
Josef Martinez nearly made it two just minutes later, rounding the goalkeeper and rolling an effort toward goal –– but the Orlando City defenders got back to clear the ball off the line. The other highlight of the first half came on the other end of the field, with Brad Guzan coming up absolutely huge in the back. Orlando found space down Atlanta United’s left flank, and crossed it across the box to Dom Dwyer in front of goal. But Guzan came flying across goal and smothered the effort to keep the lead heading into halftime.
It looked like Atlanta United had doubled their lead just minutes into the second half after a beautiful one-touch passing sequence found Julian Gressel in the box to slam home. But the video assistant referee called it off for a marginal offside in the build-up. With the Five Stripes feeling the effect of the midweek match, they consolidated in the back for the second half with chances few and far between. Brek Shea brought fresh legs to the left wing while Justin Meram came on for his Atlanta United debut. And Jeff Larentowicz took another step toward history, becoming just the third field player in MLS history to make his 400th league appearance.
Pity Martinez’s scorcher was all Atlanta United needed in the end, with 68,152 people roaring them on to the 1-0 victory to extend their unbeaten run against Orlando City. The win pushes the Five Stripes up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, six points off the lead with two matches in hand. But there’s no time to celebrate, with a cross-country trip to Vancouver coming up on Wednesday. Their next home match will come on May 29th against fellow 2017 expansion side Minnesota United –– make sure you’re there by reserving your tickets here.