Atlanta United strikes late to seal victory over Orlando City


For most of the game, the Lions kept the visitors in the game, but one second of brilliance from Atlanta changed the game for them.

A strike from Hector Villalba in the 86th minute secured Atlanta United a 1-0 victory during its first-ever meeting with Orlando City on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 25,527 at Orlando City Stadium.

“It’s getting more and more difficult,” said Orlando coach Jason Kreis. “Obviously disappointed with the result, but this one where I would say I’m pleased with the performance. Really disappointed to have lost this one, especially in the way which we lost it… we fell asleep for just one second, that one second will hurt you every time when you play against a quality team, quality players like Atlanta.”

That one second Kreis alluded was when Atlanta defender Greg Garza played a throw-in ball to an unmarked Villalba, who then rifled a shot from 25 yards past Joe Bendik for the go-ahead goal for Atlanta (10-7-3, 33 points).

Kreis deployed two substitutions moments after the goal when Richie Laryea and Luis Gil entered for Antonio Nocerino and Cristian Higuita. 

An opportunity for Will Johnson in stoppage time almost secured the equalizing goal for Orlando when the Canadian midfielder won the ball from Atlanta’s defender, but a shot at goal was sent high for Orlando’s response to equalize the game.

“It’s hard, anytime you lose a game no matter how it’s done, it’s tough, especially at home,” said Johnson. “We’re working on something here, we’re trying to build a tough, competitive team to beat, and for 87 minutes tonight, we were tough and competitive, and we switched off.”

In the first half, Orlando had a slew of chances at scoring. The first came in the 36th minute when Ricardo Kaka played a ball to Carlos Rivas, who then struck the ball at goal, but goalkeeper Brad Guzan was there to make the save for the visiting team.

In the 39th minute, a free kick from Rivas connected with Jonathan Spector, who headed the ball toward goal, but a diving save from Guzan denied the defender from scoring the opener.

Rivas connected with Spector again in the 63rd minute when the Colombian whipped in a free kick, finding the center back to head the ball toward goal, but Guzan again denied Orlando from scoring the opening goal.

The Lions haven’t won a regular-season home game since May 31 when they beat DC United 2-0. Since then Orlando has gone four-straight games without a win at Orlando City Stadium.

It was the first time this season Orlando City have back-to-back losses at home after previously losing 3-1 to Toronto FC earlier this month. 

Cyle Larin, who was called-up earlier in the week from the Canadian national team, made the Orlando City bench after playing 55 minutes during Thursday’s Gold Cup quarterfinal match between Canada and Jamaica in Phoenix. The striker entered the game for Giles Barnes in the 72nd minute.

On the statistical category, Atlanta United won possession with 55 percent despite the Lions having the better possession in the second half with 53 percent. Orlando City outshot Atlanta 14-8, but the visitors had six shots on target to Orlando’s five.

Orlando City fell to 8-8-5 with 29 points to provisionally sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Lions face Atlanta again next week at Bobby Dodd Stadium at 4:30 p.m. on FOX.

(Photo by Jeremy Reper) 

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