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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis: Atlanta United (h). Orlando and Atlanta play out entertaining goalless draw.

Well. This game was billed as 'daddy's' return. All I am going to say about that is... he's not a very good dad, is he? He's the sort of dad you see once in a blue moon, who buys you a token McDonald's and doesn't really pay attention to you. And suddenly he's gone for another 3 months. You come out of it feeling as though you're not worthwhile. At least at first. And then you remember you're better than he is, stronger in spite of him. And actually what you see before you is a woe begotten man who is a shadow of his former self. No longer is he the man that abused and terrified you for years. There is an air of melancholy around him. That was Josef Martinez on Saturday.

I realise this is a harsh analogy. But, who cares? There was no grand homecoming for 'daddy'.

Whilst Orlando City weren't able to get their season off to a flying start, they nevertheless fought their way to a more than credible 0-0 draw on opening day. A much improved Atlanta side probably shaded the first 45, with Oscar Pareja's Orlando having the lions share of the play after the interval. In the end, a draw was probably a fair result. That being said, there's plenty to be positive about.

Atlanta shaded the first half

The 5 shites... Sorry, damnit. I promised myself I was going to behave this year. Old habits die-hard, I guess. I digress. As I alluded to previously, Atlanta probably had the better of the opening half; without ever really troubling El Pulpo. Atlanta sought to dictate possession, in an ill-fated attempt to draw Orlando out. Orlando were having none of it, as Oscar Pareja's team were more than happy to let Atlanta have the ball. Atlanta completed more than 88% off their 240 passes, as Gabriel Heinze's team sought to impose themselves on the game. It was akin to a game of chess. Moves and counter moves. Brownie points to anyone who gets that pop culture reference.

Whilst Orlando's tactic of allowing Atlanta to play keep ball was inherently frustrating to watch, it was effective in reducing their scoring threat, to a point. Of the 6 shots Atlanta attempted, in the opening half, only one found its way through to Pedro Gallese. Despite the relative effectiveness of this tactic, it was clear this wasn't going to be a prudent strategy moving forward. Hence the introduction of Andres Perea at the half.

All that being said, Orlando did keep their opponents at bay. You'll see what I mean, by studying the passing matrix in figure 1. You'll notice that most of Atlanta's passes were in their defensive and middle thirds. The main issue, from Orlando City's point of view, was their inability to intercept and break on Atlanta. Orlando only intercepted the ball 3 times in the first-half, whilst they were able to make 13 clearances and win 18 tackles. You'll also notice, that many of their first-half tackles occurred in their own defensive third (figure 2). They were certainly playing with fire.

Figure 1 shows how Atlanta were playing most of their passes in their own defensive and midfield thirds.

Figure 2 shows how Orlando won a number of tackles in their own defensive third during the first-half, as they strived to keep their opponents at bay.

Whilst Orlando were certainly effective at keeping the 5 shites... Bloody hell. You know what it is? They've opened the pubs up again in England. I've had a bevvy, and become a bit lairy. I'll try to be better. Anyway, as I was saying; Orlando were effective at shutting out their opponents, but it felt a bit precarious at times. Something had to give at half-time.

A shift in momentum after the interval

The introduction of Andres Perea at the half, seemed to rejuvenate the squad... And there was a reason for that. Orlando started the game in a 4-4-2 formation with Tesho Akindele and Pato up top. The team's shape often shifted to a 4-2-3-1 when in possession, with either Pato or Akindele dropping into the 10. I think the game plan was for Pato to feed off of Tesho, but the Canadian didn't have his best game. As such ge wasn't able to impact the tie in a meaningful way. He showed a couple of decent touches, such as his reverse pass for Pato for the penalty shout in the first-half. But, Atlanta marshalled him well and his movement wasn't as good as it normally us.

You got the sense that we needed a bit more dynamism, which is exactly what Andres Perea provided. You'll see, from studying the heatmap and touch matrix in figures 4 & 5, that Perea really pushed into the offensive third during that second 45. He was much more effective than Tesho (figures 6 & 7), mainly due to his greater speed and athleticism. Orlando were then able to push higher up the pitch, and utilise an effective high press.

This particular approach allowed Orlando to hustle their opponents more in the second-half, causing them to turnover possession more often. As the visitors turned the ball over 12 times in the second-half, compared to only 7 times in the first 45. Unfortunately Orlando weren't able to make them pay, but it certainly meant for a much more uncomfortable half for Gabriel Heinze's men. This caused Atlanta to sit back a lot more. This set up, also allowed the Lions to push up on Guzan for goal kicks, as well as during open play (figure 3). Guzan played 13 inaccurate passes, 8 of which were clipped passes to his full-backs. Orlando were able to garner a lot of joy from this tactic, without ever making it count on the scoreseheet.

Figure 3 shows how Orlando were directly putting Guzan under pressure, as the 'keeper gave the ball away at will. This particular play led to a shot from Andres Perea.

Perea certainly provided more energy and penetration for the Lions. The USMNT prospect continues to show his value to this club. He made himself a nuisance with 1 shot, 1 key pass and 2 drawn fouls. He also played 14 passes with a pass success rate of 78.6%. Mauricio Pereyra's absences, and how they negatively impacted Orlando's performances last season have been well documented. So it's vital that Orlando address this. It might seem premature to say, but on the basis of this game, it's clear to see there's potential for Andres Perea to meet that need.

Figure 4 shows Andres Perea's heatmap from the second 45.

Figure 5 shows Andres Perea's touch map from the second 45.

Figure 6 shows Tesho Akindele's heatmap from the first 45.

Figure 7 shows Tesho Akindele's touch map from the first 45.

Perea also seemed to display signs of understanding when teaming up with Pato. Pato is a very technically gifted player, who excels when playing short, little interchanges; case in point, the Mendez combination. Such players need their support cast to get close to them. Alexandre Pato is a completely different kettle of fish to Daryl Dike. It's not difficult to postulate that Pereyra will have no trouble getting up in support of Pato with excellent movement, but during his absences it will be important for someone to pick up the baton. Perea could be that someone.

Pato's injury will be a huge concern

Alexandre Pato departed his Orlando City debut early, due to inury. It was a worrisome sight for all concerned with Orlando City, when Pato appeared to jar his knee. Pato is a player who has had his injury problems in the past, so everyone of an Orlando City persuasion will be hoping the injury is nothing too serious.

His departure was also problematic in the context of the game. Pato had some very promising moments, and he was unlucky not to find himself on the score sheet. Pato, arguably, had the best chance of the game when Brad Guzan produced a smart save to deny the Brazilian after he flicked a Chris Mueller cross towards goal. He produced 4 dribbles, and 1 shot at goal as well as drawing 1 foul. His movement inside the area was excellent, and with some more favourable refereeing he may well have won a penalty in both halves (though both are subject to debate, admittedly).

As you'll see from the clip below, Pato often played on the half-turn. He has the ability and skill to get away from his markers quickly, particularly when playing with his back to goal. As Pato becomes used to this team's system, and as he builds his match sharpness, you have to believe he's going to be a hit in this league. Let's just hope that injury is nothing to worry about. There's no indication of when we'll receive an update, as yet (see above). As I said previously, we'll all be hoping that it's nothing too serious.

Top player

Kyle Smith

Probably the perfect example of a how a player can turn things around, and change opinions, at a club. The previously oft maligned full-back put in an excellent shift at left-back. With 2 won tackles, 1 interception, 6 clearances and a blocked shot, Smith again proved what a capable defender he is in MLS. With a pass success rate of 86.7% from 45 attempts, he's also a reliable custodian of the ball when the Lions play out from the back. Very underrated player. Excellent defensive performance.

Player ratings

Starting XI

Gallese -6- Smart stop to deny Ibarra late-on, apart from that he had precious little to do.

Ruan -7- Got into some dangerous areas, but final ball was lacking at times.

Antonio Carlos -7- Should've done better with his headed chance, but solid as a rock. As per.

Schlegel -7- The hero of last season's shoot-out win reminded everyone what a capable defender he is.

Smith -8- Hardly put a foot wrong.

Mendez -6- Anonymous at times in the first period, but came into the game more in the second half. Bizarre decision to follow in for Pato's chance.

Urso -7- Very accomplished performance, won the ball in key areas well.

Nani -6- Not his best ever game, but showed some glimpses of what he's capable of.

Mueller -6- Industrious, but needed to get his head up more.

Akindele -5- Never really got into the game.

Pato -7- Promising debut, could be a huge hit in this league.


Perea -8- Unlucky not to get top player. I'm sure he's devastated.

Michel -6- Couple of decent touches, but no real service.

Van Der Water -6- Looks promising.

Aiás -6- Didn't really get a kick.

*All statistics courtesy of


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