Atlanta, GA (July 29th, 2017)- Saturday night’s Atlanta United vs. Orlando City game showed us some of the new and some of the old. It was the second game in what many hope to be the southeast’s first MLS rivalry. It was Dom Dwyer’s debut for Orlando City after being bought from Sporting Kansas City for an MLS record $1.6 million in allocation money. However, it was also the final Atlanta United game to be played at Bobby Dodd Stadium before the Five Stripes move into the brand new Mercedes Benz Stadium. The match was also yet another sellout for Atlanta as they’ve sold out all nine home games so far, and the home crowd stayed loud through the full 90 minutes as the game finished in a 1-1 draw.
Atlanta United vs. Orlando City: Villalba Goal earns a draw at the death
Atlanta United vs Orlando City First Half
Orlando started the game by smothering the Atlanta team with some constant pressure from their newly strengthened front three of Kaka, Cyle Larin, and Dom Dwyer. Orlando was only able to keep their foot on the gas for a couple of minutes before Atlanta turned around took control of the game, but the back and forth would continue as Orlando would win a corner moments after Yamil Asad was shown a yellow card near midfield.
Both teams had dangerous crosses on counters cut out by good defensive work. In the 39th, Atlanta United had one of their best chance of the first half on a counter from Hector Villalba. The ball was dumped off to Miguel Almiron who banged one off the post for the second time in the game. Immediately following the miss, the goal kick was sent all the way down the field to Larin who set up Kaka on a long shot to give Orlando the lead in the 40th minute.
The second half picked up right where the first left off. Both teams had chances early, but the defense prevailed each time. Almiron had a free kick in a very dangerous position in the 54th minute but put the shot over the crossbar. And then all of the chippiness from throughout the game finally boiled over. Cristian Higuita and Hector Villalba were both shown yellows after the teams came together following Larin going down and Dwyer going after Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
Dwyer left the game in the 71st minute for Carlos Rivas during a much-needed hydration break, in a move that seemed to be in an effort to help relieve pressure with some fresh legs up front as Atlanta had been on the attack for most of the second half. The subs from Orlando helped get The Lions out of their defensive third and get out on the counter and create a few more opportunities, but it wasn’t enough to pick up the three points as Asad would find Villalba, who had scored the game winner in the previous match between these two clubs, in stoppage time for the equalizer just three minutes before the final whistle.
Despite the late equalizer, Atlanta hadn’t played well for most of the game. They dominated possession with 64% and shots with a six shot advantage, but there were still many poor passes and bad turnovers that could’ve been disastrous had the defense not stepped up. Villalba’s goal moves him up to sixth in the league in goals, while Asad’s assist puts him in a tie for the most in the league.
Coming Up Next For The Clubs
Atlanta will head to Kansas City to play Dwyer’s former club August 6th, while Orlando will go visit the Montreal Impact on the 5th. Up next, however, is the MLS all-star game that will feature three players from Atlanta and two from Orlando. Orlando is one point out of the playoffs, while Atlanta is still holding on to the fourth place spot.
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