“It is the best of times, it is the worst of times for these two clubs.”
Fox announcer John Strong paraphrased Dickens at the start of the match, making it clear the power dynamic between Orlando City and Atlanta United had shifted. After several weeks of turmoil, the once dominant Five Stripes are now happy with stealing a point on the road from their rivals to the south.
But Strong could also have been describing what what we saw on the field Saturday night from Atlanta. There was mostly not-so-elegant play, punctuated with the occasional headed scoring opportunity. In the end, we should be grateful for the 1-1 draw, which puts Atlanta in the mediocre middle of the MLS Eastern Conference.
While some of the most endearingly (or annoyingly, depending on your point of view) optimistic among us saw this as a “potential turning point,” the players themselves were more realistic. Jeff Larentowicz sees the draw as a “good step” forward as they “came together as a team and got a point in a difficult place to play.”
“I think without getting too deep into it that 2020 has been a year with a lot of adversity,” he said after the match. “I feel like we’ve taken a lot of punches this year and it’s been tough. But I think we are learning about each other. I think we have shown that we are willing to fight for each other. I think we’ve had to re-group amidst all this adversity and we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Putting things in their proper context, if the worst of times for Atlanta as a club is season in which they make the playoffs, an achievement that would respresent the best of times for Orlando City, then I’ll probably take it.
Josef Martinez took a moment from his Lake Lanier weekend to troll his baby lions. Long may he reign:
Many of us—including me, I’m not proud to say—have been merciless in our criticism of Adam Jahn this season. He’s been on the losers side of this column’s leaders multiple times now, having mustered a handful of shots on goal thus far this season. But honestly, when he was brought in here to be Josef’s backup, we expected him to be an emergency striker brought in when were down a goal late in games. He’s good in the air, and might be useful if the other team were bunkered down and desperately trying to clear incoming crosses to preserve a win.
Well, that’s just the scenario in which Jahn scored his first MLS goal since 2017. Jake Mulraney delivered a beautiful cross into the box, and Jahn did what he does best—existed as the tallest player in the box. He got up high and headed it past Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese.
Jahn used the opportunity, perhaps his last, to celebrate with his patented “Shhhh” celebration, which he directed to the many dozens of Orlando City supporters in attendance:
I felt like I owed the Atlanta faithful one,” Jahn said of the Shhhh. “So, I was happy to do it against a big rival.”
Set Piece Defending … skip … Set Piece Defending … skip … Set Piece Defending
Another match, another mention of Atlanta’s poor defending on corners. This time, Orlando’s Benji Michel was able to redirect Daryl Dike’s shot into the goal off a corner kick.
Another match, another missed chance in front of goal for Cubo Torres off a Brooks Lennon cross. This time, Cubo missed a wide open header. Yikes.
Atlanta’s backline struggled at times. They allowed 15 shots, 6 on target, to an Orlando side that didn’t have Nani for most of the match.
Escobar in particular looked a step slow all night, as you can see from how often had to go deep into his own end to make recoveries:
The most dangerous player on the field for them was Chris Mueller, who dominated Escobar’s side for most of the night:
Franco Escobar wasn’t able to handle Mueller, and he picked up his fifth yellow of the season and will miss the next match against Miami.
Escobar could use the rest, according to Larentowicz.
“I think the frustration, if I could speak for him, is probably come from fatigue and lack of rhythm in the year,” Jeff said after the match.