With a multitude of regulars out for their trip to Atlanta, Orlando City put together a lineup full of seven regular reserve players and managed to earn a shutout (0-0) draw against Atlanta United on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The goalkeepers for both teams stole the show as Brad Guzan and Brian Rowe made key saves to keep the match scoreless, though Orlando’s chances on target outweighed Atlanta’s 6-3.
“I think the players had another great game,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Obviously, aim for three points in our ambition to have that protagonism and come away whenever we go to fight for the three points is there. We have many options to score and not just that but I think we really dominated the game all the time. Much better when you translate that into three points, but there is enough frustration.”
Pareja continued: “From my end just proud about a group of players today with many players out that came out today in a game, not regulars on the lineup, and today they played excellent. That’s the highlight of the game for us. Players who came out today big and took the team on their shoulders. And I’m proud. I’m proud.”
Rookie Joey DeZart started his first MLS match and played the full 90 minutes, while Robinho started in only his second match this season and fourth since joining Orlando last year.
Orlando (8-2-6, 30 points) played mostly conservative throughout the match, but still let the sides in shots on target and shots overall with 15-9.
Brian Rowe, in his first start since exactly 366 days ago on October 6, 2019, came up with two massive reaction saves, first in the 18th minute to deny Miles Robinson and the second in the 71st to stop Anton Walkes.
“To be completely honest I felt fantastic going into tonight,” Rowe said after the match. “Just to have a good warm up, it’s really once you get those nerves, you get those butterflies going before the game. The anticipation building up before, especially not having a string of games or kind of that momentum going with a number of games. So, once you step out for the warmup it’s just it’s business as usual. It’s the game you love to play, it’s the amount of time and effort we put in this year, just through training. I mean that’s the hard work in.”
Rowe continued, “When you get to come out and play with the team on the weekends or midweek wherever the games. That’s the enjoyable part. So I just was focused on having a good warm up, just kind of getting back into a good place and just business as usual. Just kind of not overthinking it and and just enjoying the moment.”
On the offensive end, Orlando came close multiple times. Robinho hit the post in the 18th minute, Nani hit the crossbar off a deflection in the 79th and Junior Urso had a point-blank shot denied in the 86th, which was arguably the best chance of the night for Orlando.
Up next, Orlando will travel back home to face their toughest test of the season, taking on the Columbus Crew on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Exploria Stadium.
Here’s how the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Brian Rowe; Kyle Smith (Alex DeJohn, 59′), Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, Kamal Miller; Junior Urso (Antonio Carlos, 87′), Joey DeZart, Andres Perea; Robinho (Chris Mueller, 59′), Benji Michel, (Nani, 70′); Daryl Dike
Substitutes: Mason Stajduhar, Jordan Bender, David Loera, Michael Halliday
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