ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Orlando City hosted the #1 MLS team, Atlanta United at Orlando City Stadium Sunday. Orlando City, though fresh off of their historical 6th consecutive win against Real Salt Lake last Sunday, is currently #4 in the league this season and have never won a match against Atlanta United, so the Lions were hungry for a win. On the other hand, Atlanta came in off of a loss to Sporting Kansas FC on Wednesday that broke their winning streak, so they too were ravenous for a win, setting the stage for an aggressive game.
Orlando: Joe Bendik (goalie), Will Johnson, Lamine Sane, Amro Tarek, Mohamed El-Munir, Chris Mueller, Justin Meram, Cristian Higuita, Sacha Kljestan (captain), Yoshimar Yotun, Dominic (Dom) Dwyer
Atlanta: Alec Kann (goalie), Michael Parkhurst (captain),Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Miles Robinson, Jeff Larentowicz, Darlington Nagbe, Greg Garza, Julian Gressel, Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez
Both teams hit the ground running, being stingy at both goals. However, Orlando’s Cristian Higuita, known for his physicality on the field, fouled in the ninth minute, giving Atlanta a free kick, which Josef Martinez nailed easily in the 10th minute. Two minutes later, Higuita shoved another down in an effort to get the ball. However, things came to a head for him in the 20th minute–he was issued a yellow card.
In the 31st minute, Atlanta scored again with a kick in from Ezequiel Barco, assisted by Greg Garza.
In the 32nd minute Joe Bendik was issued a yellow card for what seemed like yelling at the referee after a very close play: Atlanta had managed a breakaway in midfield and a cross kick to Martinez, who brought it into the box, only for two Lions to swipe the ball away. From the looks of things, Bendik was arguing over a call that wasn’t made when the referee issued him the yellow card.
Orlando had a near-score in the 44th minute. Chris Mueller ran a pass to the goal and made a cross kick for head-in, but Atlanta goalie Alec Kann was able to catch the ball.
Despite several such close calls, Orlando wasn’t able to find the back of the net, making the score at 2-0 at halftime.
Oriol Rosell was subbed in for Cristian Higuita at the half. In the 51st minute, Orlando’s Justin Meram had a close call, first kicking a blocked shot, then getting the ball again and making a shot that missed, passing the right goal post.
In the 57th minute, Justin Meram scored his first Orlando City goal with help from Kljestan and Johnson, bringing the score to 2-1 and breathing some life into the Lions.
The game’s momentum hit a wall in the 62nd minute after Orlando’s Mohamed El-Munir collided with an Atlanta player and suffered what appeared to be a cramp. After roughly three minutes and some hydration, he was back in the game.
In the 66th minute, Orlando subbed in Josue Colman for Chris Mueller, and in the 68th minute, Atlanta subbed in Hector Villalba for Ezequiel Barco. In the 74th minute, Orlando subbed in Stefano Pinho for Justin Meram. At that point, the downpour that threatened to fall at the start of the game finally came.
In the 79th minute, Atlanta finally subbed out Martinez, their strongest attacker, for
Orlando had another epic close call in the 81st minute: Kljestan made a long pass to Dwyer in the box, who made the cross, but Pinho wasn’t quite in position to head-in the ball, so it missed.
In the 83rd minute, a small skirmish began. Yellow cards were issued to Orlando’s Yoshi Yotun and to Atlanta’s Hector Villalba.
In the 87th minute, Atlanta subbed in Kevin Kratz for Darlington Nagbe. The very next minute, Oriol Rosell was issued a yellow card for shoving.
In the four minutes of stoppage time, things were so fraught, the fans even began throwing objects onto the field, making matters worse. Orlando wasn’t able to score again, making the final score 2-1.
Head Coach Jason Kreis had this to say about the incident: “We consider the fans part of our family…there were a lot emotions tonight…but we can have that, we can’t be that.” Concerning the game overall, he mentioned that the team needed to slow down a bit, that after Atlanta’s first goal, the team became very hectic and Atlanta was able to take advantage.
The Orlando City Lions will next hit the road to battle Toronto FC at BMO Field May 18 at 8pm before returning home to host the Chicago Fire May 26 at 7:30pm.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org