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Returning key players not enough as Atlanta United falls 2-1 at home to Orlando City SC

Let’s just all take a break. How about that?

MLS: Orlando City SC at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United tasted a bitter 2-1 defeat in its match against rivals Orlando City SC on Saturday in its last match before the MLS All-Star and Leagues Cup break.

The defeat sees the Five Stripes fall to 7th in the Eastern Conference with 35 points in 24 games and a 9-8-7 record. This places Atlanta six points from dropping out of a playoff spot and eight points from second place New England Revolution.

Machop Chol in place of Tyler Wolff was the only change to the starting lineup rolled out by Gonzalo Pineda in two consecutive matches. Giorgos Giakoumakis and Miles Robinson were available off the bench. Giakoumakis makes the matchday squad for the first time since his hamstring injury against the Philadelphia Union while Robinson has returned after the USMNT’s exit from the Gold Cup.

The Five Stripes scored first in the derby after a little bit of chaos in the box led to a slow ball bouncing toward Orlando’s goal line. The ball was cleared at the last second, but went straight to Caleb Wiley at the far post who blasted it in from a tight angle to make it 1-0 for the home side after 22 minutes. That’s Wiley’s fourth goal of the season and the 10th scored by Atlanta United homegrown players in 2023 league play.

The lead lasted mere minutes, however, as Antonio Carlos equalized for Orlando three minutes later from a set-piece header. With 20 minutes of the first half yet to be played, the two teams were tied 1-1.

The two teams battled for the rest of the first half, but neither was able to get the edge. Orlando dominated shots 8-6, but both teams were equal in expected goals with 0.4.

The visitors scored a second to take the lead in the 60th minute courtesy of Duncan Maguire after a brilliant run behind Atlanta’s defense was rewarded with a well-placed through ball. Maguire got onto it and it was a simple 1v1 finish to put it past Guzan and give Orlando a 2-1 advantage.

Despite Giakoumakis entering the match for the last 20 minutes, Atlanta United couldn’t make up the deficit and the match ended with a sour derby defeat.

It seemed like some players were very static at times. Perhaps this can be attributed to three games played in seven days. There was an alarming lack of runs to the far post which would have been rewarded by cross after cross that passed by begging to be put in.

The Five Stripes will be looking forward to a break in MLS play and hope to integrate new signing Tristan Muyumba by the time it returns.

Atlanta United’s next match will be its Leagues Cup debut against Inter Miami CF on July 25th at DRV PNK Stadium.

What did you think of the match? Let us know in the comments below.