Interim head coach Rob Valentino and his Atlanta United squad will head down south to Orlando to take on Oscar Parejas’ Orlando City SC this Friday. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses, and both teams need a win for different reasons.
I caught up with Ben Miller over at The Mane Land to gain some insight into Orlando City’s season and what Atlanta United fans can expect from the Lions this upcoming Friday.
Orlando City has been flying this season in the standings. What has Oscar Pareja done to get the Lions to continue to perform after coming off an impressive 2020 season?
Ben Miller: Orlando’s success has been due in large part to Pareja working around the injuries that Orlando have suffered to starting players, as well as absences for international duty. Orlando has yet to field a truly first choice XI all season due to a combination of the two factors, and Pareja has had to find a way to get results in spite of that. For the most part that has been done thanks to defensive solidity, although last game’s demolition job at the hands of NYCFC broke what had been a pretty good defensive record in the 2021 season.
How do you expect the Orlando City players and fanbase to react to the 5-0 loss to NYCFC? What are you expecting from this next game?
Ben Miller: I think the reaction will likely be a good one. There was talk among our staff upon seeing the lineup for NYCFC that the Lions were going to be well and truly up against it at Yankee Stadium, and that’s exactly what happened. However, I think the result will serve to piss off both the coach and the players and refocus them ahead of Friday’s game. The team has, for the most part, been mentally strong since Pareja took charge and I think the reaction will be a good one. As far as the fans are concerned, Pareja and this team has earned enough goodwill up to this point to not be too shaken by one result, so no one is really losing their minds just yet. With that being said, the team is in the midst of a rocky run of form, and if things don’t improve soon then some nervousness might definitely set in.
What’s the general consensus among Orlando City fans regarding Atlanta United this season?
Ben Miller: Honestly, I think it’s difficult to say. It was hard to get a read on the Five Stripes with having a new coach in Gabriel Heinze, but I think most Orlando fans recognize that Atlanta has had maybe more than its fair share of struggles this season. With that being said, it’s a rivalry game and I don’t think anyone is taking this one lightly. Another thing I’ll say, is that most everything I’ve seen from Lions’ fans has been shock and a fair bit of disgust and sympathy at the news which came out regarding the way Heinze was running the team and treating his players. Rivalry or not, nobody wants to see a club go through that.
Which Orlando City players will be absent from the game due to injury and international call ups?
Ben Miller: Sebas Mendez was hurt in the team’s draw with Toronto back on July 17th and hasn’t made a matchday squad since. Joao Moutinho might still be unavailable although he’s reportedly almost ready to get back on the field. The same thing goes for Alexandre Pato, who is reportedly ready to return after not having played since the season opener. Daryl Dike is away on Gold Cup duty. Junior Urso is also listed as questionable, and personally I don’t think we’ll see him.
What’s your predicted lineup and score?
Ben Miller: If the injury chips fall in Orlando’s favor this is what I think we’ll see: Pedro Gallese; Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; Andres Perea, Uri Rosell, Chris Mueller, Mauricio Pereyra, Nani; Alexandre Pato. For a score prediction I’ll say 3-1 Orlando.