Atlanta United: Five Stripes Get Massive Result in Orlando

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 22: Fans watch the match between the Atlanta United and the Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 22: Fans watch the match between the Atlanta United and the Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

In a matchup of two of the top 4 sides in the Eastern Conference of MLS, Atlanta United traveled to Orlando to take on the lions of Orlando City SC in a Sunday afternoon national TV matchup of southern rivals. In the end, the Five Stripes came out victorious, putting away 2 first-half goals en route to a 2-1 victory in front of a near-capacity crowd at Orlando City Stadium.

The Five Stripes were powered by goals from Josef Martinez penalty in the 10thminute and an Ezequiel Barco screamer in the 31stminute, before conceding once in the second half to Justin Meram in the 57thminute.

The Five Stripes struck first when Greg Garza received a pass in the box and was fouled almost immediately by Cristian Higuita, who dragged the wingback down right on the corner of the box, which prompted referee Alan Kelly to point to the penalty spot, which Martinez converted for his eighth goal of the season.

That eighth goal draws him level with Columbus Crew and USMNT striker Gyasi Zardes, who has played one more game than the Venezuelan.

The second goal of the game was also the second goal of Ezequiel Barco’s career in MLS, which was kick-started by a wonderful pass from Miguel Almirón to Barco, who made another pass to a running Garza down the field, who put the cross into the middle of the box for a running Barco, who hit a beautiful strike with the outside of his foot that hit the underside of the crossbar as it went past Orlando City SC keeper Joe Bednik into the back of the net.

Barco, the most expensive transfer signing in MLS history, has two goals in his last three games, after not scoring for the first eight games of the season (most of them being missed by Barco as he was nursing an injured leg).

This game was tense in the second half, with Orlando City controlling most of the possession and creating numerous chances, even putting a goal past second-string keeper Alec Kann, who was filling in for normal starter Brad Guzan, who was suspended after receiving a red card from Marc Geiger during Wednesday’s match against Sporting Kansas City. Kann was otherwise very good in this match, making several key plays to keep possession for Atlanta United, as well as making one save.

Man of the Match

The man of the match for this round of the Southern Darby is Greg Garza, who drew the key penalty that got the Five Stripes going early in a hostile environment. He was also able to tally an assist on Ezequiel Barco’s goal, as well as tying for the team lead in tackles with four.

Garza, as well as fellow wingback Julian Gressel, are the keys to the success of the 3-5-2 formation that Atlanta United has employed this season, with their two-way roles of playing in the wide areas to create chances on offense while also controlling wide attacks defensively.

He was also tasked with defending Chris Mueller, the rookie winger who has three goals on the season for the Lions and did a good job of keeping him in check. Garza was fantastic in this setting for Atlanta United and was big in the win as the Five Stripes widen their lead in the Eastern Conference and in the Supporter’s Shield race.

Next Match

The Five Stripes will return home next Sunday, May 20, as the New York Red Bulls come into Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Red Bulls were victorious this week on the road in Colorado against the Avalanche and currently sit in 5thplace in the Eastern Conference with 18 points. NYRB is also tied with Atlanta United for the largest goal differential in MLS at +12, mostly on the back of two 4-0 wins over NYCFC and Portland Timbers. They are also 4-0-1 over their last five matches, with the one loss coming to the Chicago Fire at home.

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Atlanta United have also been in great form, winning eight of their last ten matches and leading the table in the Eastern Conference and MLS by 4 points. The match will be televised once again on FS1 next Sunday night, beginning at 7 PM Eastern from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.