Preview: Atlanta United (h).
When? Wednesday, October 28 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.30 p.m. ET and 11.30 p.m. GMT.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on FS1, Fox Deportes, Fox Sports App and DAZN for residents of the United States and Canada. This game is not currently scheduled for broadcast in the U.K. The game is available locally via radio, check local listings.
Another day another dollar. Another game another preview. The action is coming thick and fast, which is what we all need after Saturday's defeat. So let's get straight into it...
I feel like something of a broken record here, given the amount of times we've faced our rivals from the north(ish). They are suffering a significant identity crisis this season. They are a side that really struggle on the offensive side of the game, and have encountered serious issues in the goal scoring department. Only D.C. United and FC Cincinnati have scored fewer goals than the Plastics, in the east. Out of the 10 goal scorers this season, only 9 remain with the club. Pity Martinez has since departed the club. Of those remaining 9, only 2 average more than one shots on goal per game; Ezequiel Barco and Jon Gallagher (figure 1). Even more alarmingly, only 1 player averages more than 1 key pass per game; Brooks Lennon with 1.1. They don't only have issues taking opportunities, they really struggle to force situations where they might create goal scoring opportunities. This Atlanta team really struggles to break lines, so the key for Orlando will be to keep hitting them with the high press.
Figure 1 shows the average shooting statistics for all 10 of Atlanta's goalscorers this season.
These creative demons also foreshadow the ability of their forwards to run at defenders. They have 3 players in Escobar, Gallagher and Lennon who break more than 1 successful dribble per game (figure 2). Statistically speaking, Pity Martinez is still their most effective dribbler. He left 2 months ago. I think that says a lot, personally.
Figure 2 shows the dribbling statistics for Atlanta's 5 most 'effective' dribblers this season.
Orlando City continue to wrestle with injury problems, heading into arguably the biggest match of their season so far. The Lions continue to be without Dom Dwyer, Joao Moutinho and Uri Rosell. Mauricio Pereyra is listed as 'out' on the official MLS injury report; though there is a chance he could be involved against Atlanta. Oscar Pareja told reporters, including the Orlando Sentinel's Julia Poe, that the Uruguayan could be involved against Atlanta.
Orlando have been boosted by the return, from injury, of Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele. Pedro Gallese and Sebas Mendez also came through the game in Fort Lauderdale unscathed, having recently returned from international duty.
As for the Plastics, they continue to be with Josef Martinez (torn ACL) and Edgar Castillo (not medically cleared). There has been further concern over the well-being of their squad, due to one Atlanta member testing positive for Covid-19. Training was cancelled today (Tuesday), Atlanta and the league will continue to monitor the situation. Not ideal preparation ahead of a must win game for the Plastics.
Possible starting XI
I think, given the nature of this team's latest defeat, we see a few changes. Against D.C. United, they lined up with a 4-2-3-1 with Ezequiel Barco, Jürgen Damn, Marcelino Moreno and Erick Torres in attack. The quartet were largely ineffective. The Plastics' goal came from substitute Jon Gallagher. I think we see Gallagher come in, with Lennon remaining at right-back. Adam Jahn caused problems for Orlando last time out, so I think he gets the nod. Barco has worked his way back into the team, so should keep his place on the left. I expect Emerson Hyndman, Jeff Larentowicz and Eric Remedi provide fresh legs in midfield. Fernando Meza struggled at the weekend, as such I can see Anton Walkes deputising.
The talented winger has been a little hit and miss lately. At least since his barn storming display against D.C. United in the capital. He's chalked up just 1 assist in the 5 games since that 4-0 drubbing of D.C. The assist, came in the 2-1 home reversal to that very same opponent. He will still be one to watch for Oscar Pareja's team, however. The Plastics don't create a lot of chances, but Lennon is the architect of most chances they do create; even when utilitised at full-back. He leads the team in assists, with 3 and is their second highest goalscorer with 2 (tied with Adam Jahn). Jon Gallagher leads the team with 4. Lennon's trickery and pace in wide areas can be a real threat, and he can finish given the chance. One to watch.
Atlanta heads into this do-or-die match in terrible form. The Plastics are 5-4-11 on the season, and have lost 3 out of their last 5. The other 2 games ended in draws, including the 0-0 draw with ourselves at Mercedes Benz Stadium. The Plastics need a win to keep their slim hopes of a play-off place alive, as they currently languish 12th in the east, 2 points off of Fort Lauderdale in 10th.
Orlando, meanwhile, have hit something of a rocky patch themselves. Draws against NYCFC and the Red Bulls preceded a disappointing last-gasp defeat in Fort Lauderdale. The Lions are still in a strong position, however. Oscar Pareja's team currently sit 4th in the east, 2 points clear of NYCFC in 5th, with a game in hand. Orlando are currently 8-8-3 on the season.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com