In a Saturday night fixture that attracted nearly 72,000 people to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta United dominated rivals Orlando City in a 4-0 thrashing.
Entering the match, most people had questions about who would replace injured star midfielder Darlington Nagbe. Last night we saw Hector Villalba return to the starting lineup on the right side of the field as manager Gerardo Martino moved utility man Julian Gressel into the middle of the field to replace Nagbe.
The Five Stripes had a point to prove and within four minutes of the game, United were on the score sheet thanks to Golden Boot leader Josef Martinez the scorer and Julian Gressel with the assist.
Atlanta continued to put their rivals under pressure, but they couldn’t find another goal – a worrying trend this season. Orlando grew into the game and began to put pressure on the Five Stripes. In the 38th minute of the game, Orlando almost had a chance to equalise, but a combination of a Brad Guzan save and a Mikey Ambrose goal line clearance, Atlanta retained their lead.
After the halftime break, Atlanta showed why they are on top of the league. Less than ten minutes into the second half, the home side showed how threatening they can be on the counter attack. Tito Villalba won the ball back in Atlanta’s penalty area, and they immediately sprung to life as Villalba found Martinez running into space, who in turn played a through ball to Miguel Almiron in between Orlando’s retreating defenders. Almiron hit full speed and extended Atlanta’s lead to two goals.
Two minutes after Atlanta’s second goal of the night, Almiron nearly had another after smashing the cross bar with a shot outside the penalty area. The ball bounced back to youngster Ezequiel Barco who smashed the ball into the right side of the goal.
Five minutes later, Orlando had a chance to get on the score sheet after a Guzan block bounced back right in front of goal but Orlando missed the open chance by sending the shot wide.
Atlanta continued to show their desire to score goals by putting away a fourth just before the 80th minute. Left back Ambrose passed the ball to Miggy who took a somewhat heavy touch, but showed his strength and ability to hold off Orlando City defender Jonathan Spector before scoring his second of the game.
Left back Ambrose has shown he is a reliable player for the position until main man Greg Garza recovers from injury while Julian Gressel has shown that he can play in a variety of positions and Martino can depend on him. However, Villalba wasn’t up to his usual speed and missed out on a chance to prove he should be back in the starting lineup. On the left side of the field, Barco was fortunate to score a goal. He took on Orlando players on the dribble, but he has yet to create the impact that Yamil Asad did last year.
Atlanta takes on FC Dallas next on July 4th at Toyota Stadium.
Written by Kyle Soto – (@kdsj_99)
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