Martino elected to not use the 4-3-3 formation that featured against Sporting KC and instead brought back the 3-5-2 formation, which was used during the team’s eight-game unbeaten streak. Martino said he thought that Atlanta United matched up better against Orlando City.
Miles Robinson made his second start at centerback and Alec Kann, recovered from his knee injury, started in goal in place of the suspended Brad Guzan, who was given a red card by Geiger in the Sporting KC game. Surprisingly, Martino elected to not start Hector Villalba at striker. Villalba’s game-winner at Orlando last year was voted the goal of the year in MLS. He also scored the tying goal the next week in the rematch.
Martino’s decisions worked.
Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute on a penalty kick by Martinez. The goal was eighth this season and tied him for the league lead with Columbus’ Gyasi Zardes. The penalty kick was called because Greg Garza was pulled down from behind by Cristian Higuita near the top of the penalty box. Martinez has converted 4 of 5 penalty kicks in his MLS career.
Atlanta United increased its lead to 2-0 in the 31st minute on a goal by Barco, whose shot hit the underside of the crossbar. It was Barco’s second goal this season and Garza’s third assist. It was an easy goal for Atlanta United. Garza received a pass from Barco. Instead of hitting a cross through the penalty box, Garza hit a shorter pass back to the trailing Barco, who hit the ball with the outside of his right foot.
Barco said he hit the shot with the outside of his foot because he didn’t have a lot of time to react.
Martino said their point of emphasis was to make sure that even when they had the ball, there was an Atlanta United player close to Justin Meram, Dom Dwyer, Sacha Kljestan and Chris Mueller.
“We were always aware of those players so that they couldn’t hurt us,” Martino said.
Orlando City missed a chance to cut into the lead in the 43rd when Higuita’s header from seven yards out went right to Kann.
Kann said he thought he played well. He was pleased with his passing when the team played out of the back, and with his distribution on longer passes. It was his first appearance since June 1, 2017 when helped Atlanta United defeat Columbus 2-0. He sustained an injury during that game, and Guzan became eligible the next week.
Orlando City, which this season has become good at rallying, cut Atlanta United’s lead to 2-1 on a goal by Meram in the 57th minute. Will Johnson hit a hard shot from distance that Kann punched away. The rebound came to Meram just inside the top of the penalty box. He skipped through a tackle by Robinson and hit a right-footed shot into the lower right corner.
Orlando City fought to get the tying goal, but Jeff Larentowicz, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Robinson thwarted each attack.
Atlanta United now has as many road wins as it had all of last season.
“It’s very important, especially in league where winning on the road is so difficult,” Martino said. “We are deserving of it, especially coming off a loss at home on Wednesday.”
Frustration mounted for the Lions. Teammates Kljestan and Mohamed El-Munir began pushing each other late in the half. Orlando City supporters then threw dozens of plastic bottles and cans onto the field after referee Alan Kelly declined to call a penalty on Gonalez Pirez in injury time.
Orlando City issued a statement about the behavior of the supporters after the game:
“Orlando City SC does not support or condone the actions taken by fans at Orlando City Stadium during Sunday’s match against Atlanta United. Fans are strictly prohibited from throwing debris or objects onto the field. The Club is using available resources to identify offenders, who will be penalized for their behavior in accordance with Major League Soccer and Orlando City Stadium regulations.
“Orlando City SC takes great pride in the passion of its supporters and how them make Orlando City Stadium the most difficult venue to play at in MLS, but the safety of the fans, players officials and staff members is our top priority.”