Atlanta United’s struggles on the road will be put to the test again this weekend when the Five Stripes visit old friends Orlando City. Both teams have been stuck in third gear of late, but perhaps another edition of this Southern showdown is what one of them needs to kickstart its form.
Orlando is 7th in the East on 19 points, almost perfectly even; its record stands at 5W-4D-4L and its goal differential is 0. After a similarly mediocre record across the entirety of 2022 with the exception of US Open Cup success, Oscar Pareja’s side was one of MLS’ busiest clubs in the recent transfer market, highlighted by the arrival of DP winger Martin Ojeda and re-signings of Mauricio Pereyra and Pedro Gallese, but so far that hasn’t translated to on-field improvement. Orlando has the 10th-best attack and 9th-best defense in the East, matched almost perfectly by its underlying numbers. In short, this team is exactly what its record says it is.
Nonetheless, the Lions’ have quite the attacking firepower, with the DP trio of striker Ercan Kara, Ojeda, and highly-touted Uruguayan youth international Facundo Torres combining for 14 goals + assists. Superdraft pick Duncan Maguire has stolen the show a bit, however, and leads Orlando’s goalscoring charts with 4 goals. Despite Orlando’s clear individual talent, getting things to click across the board has been and still is a struggle.
Atlanta’s recent run of 1 win in 5 has brought it all the way from 3rd to *checks notes* 4th in the East, but the Fives Stripes will only get bailed out by the entire conference’s general mediocrity for so long. A continuation of that slide would have a much more tangible impact on the standings, as 7th-placed Orlando is only four points back with a game in hand. The next few games don’t bode well for Gonzalo Pineda’s men either, as the visit to Orlando is followed by clashes with New England (3rd) and LAFC (1st in the West). It’s quite difficult seeing Atlanta string together results anytime soon, and all the more so after a quick glance at the availability report for Saturday. Franco Ibarra is suspended, Amar Sejdic remains injured, and Santiago Sosa is questionable. As badly as Atlanta’s midfield needs fresh faces, I’m not sure that’s the ideal way to go about it. The good news, though is that Giorgos Giakoumakis is in red-hot form and hasn’t even started a game this month. Once that happens, who knows what he’s capable of.
Atlanta leads the overall series 9W-6D-3L and is unbeaten in three, including a 1-0 victory in Florida last season.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Orlando City SC 1-1 Atlanta United
Orlando has the worst home record in the East with 2 wins and 8 total points from 7 games, but Atlanta’s middle-of-the-pack road record doesn’t inspire much confidence either. I’ll go with a 1-1 draw, with a Giorgos Giakoumakis opener canceled out by an equalizer from super-sub Maguire.