After nine consecutive attempts to get a win against their Georgia rivals, Orlando City finally managed to pull through on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Atlanta United in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“We were very happy for the group,” head coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “Today with a lot of commitment and energy, and discipline especially, they got three points that are going to be marked in the history of the club.”
Missing playmaker Mauricio Pereyra, who did not travel with the team, as well as having Nani and Ruan starting on the bench, much was asked of the young core of the Lions to perform and perform they did.
Orlando (4-2-2, 14 points) came out of the gates on the front foot, pushing the attack and finding gaps in the defense for chances. Within the first 15 minutes, Orlando had taken the league and would not look back.
Following a throw in that was knocked out for a corner, Chris Mueller took the ensuing corner, firing the ball right onto the head of Junior Urso. The Brazilian headed the ball down and with pace, going through the legs of Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan to give the Lions the 1-0 lead 13 minutes into the match.
Orlando doubled its advantage 20 minutes later when the birthday boy Mueller once again played a massive part. After taking a headed ball down deftly, he drove at the defense eventually finding Daryl Dike at the top of the box. Dike smartly turned and laid off a ball to the running Benji Michel as he ran right through the defense and into the penalty area. Mueller ran with him on the opposite side, Guzan shifted towards to Michel and Benji had an easy layoff to Mueller to tap in and put Orlando up 2-0 in the 35th minute.
“I looked up and I saw Daryl finding some space in between the two center backs, so I picked out a pass to him,” Mueller said of his goal. “I saw that he turned in and laid Benji out wide and I just continued my run. I was screaming to Benji for the ball back across because the space was so wide open and I was right there and he found me out so well and laid it out on a platter and gave me the best birthday present I could have asked for so yeah, it was awesome.”
The second half told a different story as Atlanta spent most of the time with the ball trying to break down Orlando’s defense with minimal success. It wasn’t until the 83rd minute that Brooks Lennon was able to find a headed chance that beat Pedro Gallese to pull it back to a one goal game.
Despite that, Orlando capitalized on a mistake by Atlanta after Pity Martinez had his pocket picked by Junior Urso with no defensive help behind. Urso remained patient and picked out Nani, who had come on as a substitute earlier, for the easy finish. That restored the two-goal cushion that Orlando would not relinquish.
The win against Atlanta marks the first in MLS for Orlando after going 0-7-2 in their first nine attempts.
The Lions will also have to monitor one of their promising defenders Joao Moutinho, who left the game in the 78th minute in a stretcher after an apparent groin injury.
Orlando now moves to their next game on Wednesday, traveling to take onn Nashville SC for the second time in a week, this time in Nissan Stadium. Kickoff for that is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
13′ – Júnior Urso, assisted by Chris Mueller (ORL)
35′ – Chris Mueller, assisted by Benji Michel and Daryl Dike (ORL)
83′ – Brooks Lennon, assisted by Jürgen Damm and Ezequiel Barco (ATL)
86′ – Nani, assisted by Júnior Urso (ORL)
Here’s how the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI (4-2-3-1): Pedro Gallese; João Moutinho (Kamal Miller 78′), Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith; Chris Mueller (Ruan, 74′), Uri Rosell (Sebas Mendez, 62′), Junior Urso, Andres Perea, Benji Michel, Daryl Dike (Nani, 62′)
Bench: Brian Rowe, Jordan Bender, David Loera, Rodrigo Schlegel, Robinho
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