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Three thoughts on Orlando City losing to Atlanta United in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals

Against all odds, Orlando found a way to lose to their daddies once again.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United are one win away from collecting their second major trophy in club history after taking care of “rivals” Orlando City in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals 2-0. Without Josef Martinez, the Five Stripes still went down to Florida and took care of business against the Lions to ensure the USOC final will be coming to the Benz later this month. Here are a few thoughts on an unattractive but very effective win to remain unbeaten against No Playoffs FC.

Yes, I’m A Hypocrite. What of it?

Look. I know I’ve been preaching and begging for attacking soccer over the past few months. Sometimes, though, pragmatism is needed. A cup semifinal — away from home — in the Florida heat — without your best goalscorer — on short rest — definitely qualifies in my book. This match was nothing pretty to look at, but it got the job done.

The plan from Frank de Boer was pretty clear from the outset. Stay calm and compact early on and don’t make mistakes. That’s pretty much what they did to decent effect. Dom Dwyer’s disallowed goal due to offside was a bit worrisome, but overall the makeshift 3-5-2 (which honestly played more like a 5-4-1 or even 5-5-0 at times) did well to ride the storm.

The Josef-less attack was very much out of sync for the majority of the match but they still managed to create some chances when they were able to get forward. Justin Meram in particular looked very dangerous all night down the left hand side.

It wasn’t as if it was a complete bunker job by Atlanta, just a pure pragmatic outlook that ultimately paid off when Eric Remedi opened the scoring late in the half.

From then on it was all about keeping Orlando off the scoresheet. The defending wasn’t perfect, nothing about this match was. It just happened to be effective at the right times. Maybe that wouldn’t be good enough on a normal night, but on this occasion, you’ll take it without any hesitation.

Mass Confusion

I can’t say I’ve ever been as confused by a substitution as I was in the 48th minute when Ezequiel Barco was replaced by Andrew Carleton. This is a cup semifinal and you’re taking off probably your most influential attacking player for a player who hasn’t played first team minutes since June. The timing, two minutes into the half, was also odd. Both Barco and Franco Escobar looked just as puzzled as everyone else on social media.

De Boer explained the sub itself as a planned one, saying that he told Barco he’d only get 45 minutes due to just coming back from injury and also starting on the weekend. He did not give an explanation as to the weird timing. (insert shrug emoji here)

To be completely fair, Barco looked a frustrated player at the end of the first half as he knew the team’s main idea was to defend well and not focus on attacking. And to Carleton’s credit, he put in a decent shift so credit to him for being ready. It’s also a good sign that De Boer said that the minutes were a reward to Carleton for working hard in training and with ATL UTD 2.

Mind That Gap

One day Orlando City will beat Atlanta United. That is an inevitability. Until that day, we shall joke our jokes and laugh our laughs. This loss has to really sting for the Lions. They had the home-field advantage. Josef was out. Atlanta United may be at the most vulnerable they’ve ever been. And still, apart from a few near scares, it wasn’t really even close. The Five Stripes are still clearly the better side. Orlando probably should’ve won considering all the factors at play. But they didn’t. Let’s hear from Josef on how we all feel about that: