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Atlanta United vs Orlando City: Match Preview

Round 17 against our neighbors from Florida

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Disaster averted. That was the main sentiment after Atlanta United’s business-like win over Real Salt Lake, just three days after a horror show against Austin that left alarm bells blaring. The Five Stripes are still in the deep end, but at least it stopped taking on water Wednesday night. And next up for the good guys? A visit from Orlando City, who fell 3-0 to Atlanta in Gonzalo Pineda’s second game in charge last season. A repeat of that night would be a huge step towards the playoffs and more light at the end of the tunnel that has been Atlanta United’s 2022.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando has been one of the biggest mysteries in MLS so far. According to expected goals, it’s one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference; Orlando ranks 12th in both expected goals and expected goals against, 13th in expected points, and 11th in actual goals. And yet, the Purple Lions find themselves in 5th in the standings that matter with 29 points. Orlando has also been maddeningly inconsistent, with its longest winning and losing runs both at 2 games. Its luck might be starting to stall, however, and it has fallen closer to the clump of teams around the playoff line than the top of the Conference thanks to a run of one win in its last four.

Nonetheless, Orlando still has the firepower to cause most teams problems, and a leaky Atlanta defense should be no exception. The Florida club replaced outgoing DPs Nani and Daryl Dike with Uruguayan talent Facundo Torres and Austrian Bundesliga striker Ercan Kara over the offseason. The duo has taken their time gelling to the league but boasts a respectable haul of goals and assists so far. Kara (7g, 2a), Torres (4g, 4a) are joined by Mauricio Pereyra (6a) and Alexandre Pato (3g, 4a) as Orlando’s attacking options, though all four have yet to really click.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta’s win over RSL moved it all the way up to 10th in the East on 23 points, but all the good guys need to jump above the red line is to string a few victories together. Fourth placed Montreal is only six points away and Atlanta has a game in hand on the teams from 5th to 7th. The upcoming calender means the Five Stripes don’t have much room for error, however, with visits to LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire, and FC Cincinati on the horizon, plus a home game against Seattle thrown in to the mix. None of those will be very straight forward, making Sunday’s showdown against a direct rival for the postseason even more important.

Predicted Starting XI’s

Atlanta’s Predicted XI (3-4-1-2)
Orlando’s Predicted XI (4-2-3-1)

McBlunder’s Prediction: Atlanta United 2-2 Orlando City

Both teams have their fair share of problems, and that will show in a back-and-forth 2-2 draw, with goals from Martinez and Almada for the good guys and a Kara brace for the Lions.