June 30, 2018 Atlanta: Atlanta United Ezequiel Barco works against two Orlando City defenders during the second half in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, June 30, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Atlanta United vs. Orlando: 5 questions

Atlanta United will go for its third consecutive win this season against Orlando when the two teams meet in Florida on Friday.

Atlanta United is atop MLS with 51 points. Orlando City has four points from its past 15 games and is tied for the second-fewest points (23) in the league.

Wait, there’s more. Atlanta United has scored the most goals (53) while the Lions have given up the most (57).

Oh, and Josef Martinez will try to set the league single-season scoring record if he can notch his 28th goal.

Jordan Culver (@JordanCulver) of the Orlando Sentinel answered five questions about Friday’s game.

Q: Orlando City has four points from its past 15 games. What is still going wrong?

A: The club's back line has been hammered by injuries to starters all season, but Orlando City has given up goals in every way imaginable, from own goals to Wil Trapp scoring practically from Cincinnati. Orlando City has proven it can score goals with James O'Connor at the helm. The new coach has managed to find winning attacking combinations. But the Lions can't stop conceding goals.

Q: How will the new coach fix these issues?

A: Well... he's tried. Orlando City has been more compact in defense and doesn't isn't relying as much on fullbacks getting forward to create chances. Yoshi Yotun's presence helped with that. But even with left and right backs not having to track back quickly to cut out opponents' chances, there are still transition issues. Plus, the club's defenders are just plain getting beat at the worst moments.

Q: What hope have you seen from the past few games?

A: Orlando City can score. That's evident. There are moments of solid defending. There's effort there for he Lions and no one has given up hope yet. The pieces are there for the club to make a run -- as improbable as that may seem -- and things just haven't gone Orlando City's way this season.

Q: How may Orlando City's supporters react should Martinez set the MLS single-season scoring record on Friday?

A: They'll boo. They'll probably boo loudly, because... well... it's Atlanta. There might be some extremely profane chanting. But I'm convinced something like that happened the last time the Five Stripes came to town -- cup-throwing -- isn't going to happen again.

Q: What is the matchup to watch and how do you think it will go?

A: I'm sorry, but my answer from the last match between these two clubs hasn't changed much. How could it? It comes down to Orlando City's defenders and can anyone stand up and deny Atlanta United's chances. Because Atlanta United will create chances. Lots of them, I'd guess. And, at some point, whoever comprises Orlando City's chances will have to knock away a cross or make a critical decision in a 1-v-1 situation. How those situations have gone is what has defined Orlando City's season.

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