Another game, another playoff team, and another important three points.
Atlanta United will face Orlando City SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday at 3 PM.
This will be the last home match before Atlanta United go on the road to visit LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire FC. More importantly, this is a match against an Eastern Conference opponent that is currently in a playoff position. Atlanta’s only win against a playoff team last season came against Orlando, and Wednesday’s victory against Real Salt Lake was its first since.
Orlando (8-5-7) is fifth in the Eastern Conference with 29 points. They are tied with Real Salt Lake for the third-most clean sheets this season with seven but are tied for ninth-worst in total expected goals allowed with 28.7. Against playoff teams this season, Orlando has a record of 3-1-6 with 12 goals for and 20 against. Orlando's top attacking threats are Mauricio Pereyra (3 goals, 4 assists), Facundo Torres (4 goals, 4 assists), Alexandre Pato (3 goals, 4 assists), and Ercan Kara (7 goals, 2 assists).
Orlando has defeated Atlanta United once at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in seven attempts.
Orlando allows a lot of freedom down the wings, so it could be a good game to see players like Caleb Wiley and Aiden McFadden get space for crosses into the box. Add to that the instability that Luiz Araújo brings to back lines with his movement and ability to get shots off from distance.
Atlanta United Predicted XI
Orlando City Predicted XI
How does Atlanta win?
Follow the same recipe from Wednesday. If Atlanta can score first and maintain defensive solidity, they can walk away with three points. Atlanta has the players to destabilize Orlando along the flanks with speed, so all they need is to get numbers in the box to turn those chances into goals.
On the defensive side of things, Juanjo Purata showed an excellent ability to step into the leader/communicator role against Real Salt Lake. If he can continue to act as a sort of on-field tactician, Atlanta can minimize Orlando's opportunities and control the game.