(Photo by Orlando City SC)
ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City SC played an admirable defensive game against one of the league’s best offensive squads. But despite their defensive efforts and a first-half golazo by team captain Ricardo Kaká, the Lions (8-8-6, 30 points) drew 1-1 with Atlanta United FC (10-7-4, 34 points) Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Five minutes of added time were plenty for Atlanta, as the home side scored just two minutes into the added time. Midfielder Yamil Asad gathered the ball about 10 yards from the top-left part of City’s box and took a slight touch forward. Moments later, Asad slotted in the ball toward a streaking Héctor Villalba, who struck it past Lions keeper Joe Bendik for the 1-1 equalizer.
It was a match that seemed like Orlando City would win, as their seemingly never-break defense withstood a barrage of attacks. Atlanta out-shot Orlando City 17-10 (6-1 on goal) while holding 63.9 percent of possession.
City first opened the game with a second-minute flurry of shots on United goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s net. City newcomer Dom Dwyer found space down the right flank before sending in a low, grounded cross intended for Cyle Larin. The ball was instead deflected and fell to Kaká, who unloaded a deflected shot. Left-back Donny Toia surged down the left flank to keep the ball in play and unloaded a deflected shot of his own. Right-back Scott Sutter ended the effort as the preceding deflection rolled to him for a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar.
The post was a friend for Orlando City as well. In the 15th minute, Miguel Almirón fired a long-range shot that curled and hit off the bottom part of the right post. Almirón got a second chance but met the post, again, in the 39th minute. Villalba tracked a long ball down the right side before laying it off to Almirón, who tried to go far post. The effort was ended after Villalba attempted a shot that hit the side of the goal.
Atlanta’s lack of pace to get back on defense gave way to Kaká’s goal. Bendik first sent the ensuing goal kick nearly three-quarters of the field, as it landed at Larin’s feet. Larin controlled the ball and led Kaká on a through-ball to the right. The Brazilian then launched a one-timer toward the upper-90 and past a rooted Guzan.
Lions midfielder Antonio Nocerino made strong efforts to score his first-ever Orlando City goal. In the 29th minute, he directed the ball toward Will Johnson on the right flank and immediately cut toward the box. Johnson’s ensuing cross found Nocerino, who struck it just inches past the left post. Nocerino also took his second and final shot in the 61st minute that went high after he took the ball near the top of the box.
Man of the Match: LB Donny Toia
Toia might seem like an unusual choice for the afternoon draw, but he was essential in holding the highest-scoring team in MLS scoreless for 91 minutes. He was active in both the offensive and defensive ends, stopping wide threats with timely tackles. The first-year Lion also made subtle plays to block passing lanes on cutters in one-two passing situations.
Orlando City will travel to face the Montreal Impact on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Dom Dwyer Quiet in Orlando City Debut
In his debut for the Major League Soccer Lions, Dwyer was relatively quiet. Dwyer, who has recorded 57 goals in 129 matches, no shots in his 73 minutes of starting action. The newcomer, however, was essential in creating the early volley of shots in the second minute and nearly scored in the 49th minute on a cross in by Larin.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) July 29, 2017
Had us getting up off our seat… so close. pic.twitter.com/kyyTUqbvIf
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) July 29, 2017
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) July 29, 2017
- Orlando City has won just two matches in their past 15 games.
- Kaká scored his fourth goal of the season.
- Villalba also scored the late game-winner in a 1-0 win over Orlando City on July 21.
- Despite earning a point on the road, the Lions are still two points out of the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.
|40’||Orlando City SC||Ricardo Kaká||Cyle Larin|
|92’||Atlanta United FC||Héctor Villalba||Yamil Asad|
Statistics and Starting Lineups
|Goals||Assists||Shots||Shots on Goal||Possession %|
|Atlanta United FC||1||1||17||6||63.9%|
|Orlando City SC||1||1||10||1||36.1%|
Atlanta United FC starting XI (4-2-3-1-): Brad Guzan (GK); Greg Garza, Leandro González Pirez, Michael Parkhurst (C), Anton Walkes; Carlos Carmona, Jeff Larentowicz; Yamil Asad, Miguel Almirón, Julian Gressel; Héctor Villalba
Orlando City SC starting XI (4-3-1-2): Joe Bendik (GK); Donny Toia, José Aja, Jonathan Spector, Scott Sutter; Antonio Nocerino, Cristian Higuita, Will Johnson; Ricardo Kaká (C); Dom Dwyer, Cyle Larin
For more on the Lions as they work their way out of a winless slump, follow Victor Tan on Twitter at @NDR_VictorTan.