Whenever Orlando City and Atlanta United meet up, it always seems to be an intense match with a lot of drama. Sunday afternoon was no different as Orlando and Atlanta battled to a 1-1 draw in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The goals came from Mauricio Pereyra for Orlando and Juan Jose Purata for Atlanta.
Orlando now sits fifth in the East with 30 points. Orlando remains in the hunt to host in the first round of the playoffs (2-4 seeds in each conference host). Orlando is two points back of fourth and three points back of third. Atlanta sits 11th in the East with 24 points.
Orlando jumped out in front early in the tenth minute on a free kick from Mauricio Pereyra. He put the ball over the Atlanta wall and past an out of position Rocco Rios Novo in goal for Atlanta. The goal wasn't without controversy (Atlanta will argue that the foul was soft initially and then that the whistle for the free kick was premature). Nevertheless, it was a good strike from Pereyra and I think the goal was coming after the way Orlando started the match.
Atlanta would find the equalizer in the 71st minute off the head of center-back Juan Jose Purata on a free kick from Thiago Almada. Orlando tried to play Purata offsides, but he was able to stay on and streak past the line to put home a header. This goal also seemed to be coming based on the run of play at the time.
Mauricio Pereyra scored Orlando's goal against Atlanta United
Both teams would have glorious chances in the final minutes, but each squad was somewhat unfairly denied by the post. Josef Martinez got past the Orlando backline and his shot got past Pedro Gallese in the 92nd minute, but the shot hit off the bar and Orlando was able to clear the rebound.
Then Alexandre Pato almost scored a great goal in the 94th minute for Orlando, but he was also denied by the post. His shot was from distance and also had Rios Novo beat, but the shot also clanged off the bar.
Gallese also made a fabulous save in the 82nd minute to potentially save the point for Orlando. Former Orlando forward Dom Dwyer sent a thunderous strike on target, but Gallese made a great diving save to keep the ball out of the corner of the net.
Atlanta also missed a chance in the 81st minute. Luiz Araujo got a shot off, but Gallese made the save. Then Josef Martinez was unable to corral the rebound to get a shot off.
It was a frantic and entertaining finish to the match. The second half almost felt like that of a playoff match, it was that intense both in the stadium and on the pitch. This is the type of match that fans enjoy seeing, even if there was only a combined two goals. There were a lot of shots, yellow cards, yelling, a loud crowd, etc.
I think the match was split between the two halves. I feel Orlando was the better team in the opening 45, and Atlanta was the better squad in the second half. Atlanta was probably the better team in totality, but I believe each side thinks they could have gotten three points out of the match.
Statistically, Atlanta held the edge in possession at 61.9%-38.1%. Atlanta completed 88% of their passes, while Orlando completed 80.6% of theirs. Atlanta also had a commanding edge in shots at 18-3. Atlanta had the edge in shots on target 4-1. Meanwhile Orlando led the way in clearances as they made 29 compared to Atlanta's 11.
Atlanta had the edge in Expected Goals 2.2-0.2. I think that number is probably fair to the amount of chances that Atlanta had in the second half, but it is probably not indicative to some of the control Orlando had early on.
Cesar Araujo had a really strong match for Orlando in my opinion. He completed 95.1% of his passes, but more importantly played really quality defense. Pereyra also completed 81.8% of his passes on top of his goal. He also made two tackles.
Junior Urso also played really well. He completed 85.7% of his passes and made two tackles. More so than that, it truly seemed as if he was all over the pitch making plays throughout the match.
Jake Mulraney also drew three fouls in the match (led the team), while also completing 85.7% of his passes against his old team.
Next up for Orlando, they will face one of the best teams in the East in Philadelphia on Saturday night, July 23rd.