If more evidence is needed that 2020 is an odd year, Orlando defeated Atlanta United 3-1 on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first time in their ninth meeting in MLS games.

And Orlando didn’t get lucky in improving to 1-6-2 against the Five Stripes (3-4). Orlando’s first two goals, one by Junior Urso and the second by Chris Mueller, were well-executed while also helped by mistakes by numerous Atlanta United players. The Five Stripes’ goal came from Brooks Lennon in the 83rd minute after a nice pass from Jurgen Damm. Nani cemented the win with a goal in the 86th minute after Pity Martinez was easily knocked off the ball by Urso.

“Losing to a team that you haven’t lost to before in franchise history is tough,” Lennon said. “Guys are really disappointed in the locker room right now.”

Stephen Glass, who Friday said he didn’t want to be first Atlanta United manager to lose to the Lions, lost his first game in his second in charge after replacing Frank de Boer.

“Orlando looked like in the first half that they were making it more personal,” he said. “They came out fighting. First half in general cost us the victory tonight.”

This was supposed to be a litmus test for Atlanta United. None of its three wins this season came against what would be considered a quality team: two against expansion-side Nashville and one against Cincinnati. But as was the case in its three shutout losses in Orlando to the New York Red Bulls, Cincinnati and Columbus, the Five Stripes looked a half-step slow on offense in the first half and undisciplined on defense.

Atlanta United knew it was going to be difficult. Unlike Orlando, which hosted and defeated Nashville on Wednesday, Atlanta United flew to Miami, didn’t play because it was part of the social-justice protests, and flew back within 24 hours.

But Atlanta United was at home and could be argued had fresher legs.

Still, it came out flat for most of the first 45 minutes. It failed to move the ball quickly, something that Glass said was a point of emphasis, and it lacked intensity, according to Glass, Lennon and centerback Anton Walkes.

Orlando struck first, and it came on a corner. Urso ran past a flat-footed Eric Remedi and met the free kick near the center of the penalty box and hammered a header down between Brad Guzan’s legs and into the goal in the 13th minute.

Urso came inches away from adding a second in the 18th minute when his curling shot sailed just wide. Urso had time because no one came out to mark him when the ball switched from Orlando’s right to its left.

“We didn’t cope with their shape in the midfield, (in the first half)” Glass said. “Didn’t cope with the way they pressed and the way they used the ball.”

Orlando increased its lead to 2-0 in the 36th minute. The play started with an Atlanta United goal kick, which meant both of its fullbacks were high up the pitch. After Orlando won the first ball, an aerial duel between Martinez and a Lions defender. Mueller won the second and passed to Daryl Dike. He fed Benji Michel, who was streaking into the penalty box down the right well in front of George Bello, who was stationed high up the field. Michel ran onto the ball and passed it back across to the open Mueller, who had continued his run and was not marked by either Remedi or Mo Adams, for the easy tap-in.

“Individual mistakes multiple times within that passage of play,” Walkes said. “We invited them to attack our goal. It was too easy. We have to look at that and make sure it doesn’t happen again on Wednesday.”

Glass used two of his five subs at halftime, bringing on Jeff Larentowicz for Adams and Jake Mulraney for Manuel Castro. Mulraney came in on the left, pushing Martinez into the middle. Glass used two more subs in the 60th minute, putting in Erick Torres for Adam Jahn and Barco for Matheus Rossetto. At the time, Atlanta United had six shots, two on target.

Glass used his final sub in the 79th minute, handing Damm his debut. He quickly showed his quality, beating his defender to earn an assist on Lennon’s late goal. It was his first for Atlanta United.

“Second half, looked like they were fighting for the jersey,” Glass said. “A lot better in the second half than the first.”

Atlanta United had a penalty claim late in the game denied after a video review. On the play, Lennon was kicked in the back of his head and took studs to the neck when he turned as an Orlando City defender kicked away the ball.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt (it’s a penalty),” Glass said.


Atlanta United coming games

Sept. 2 vs. Miami, 7 p.m. (FS1)

Sept. 5 at Orlando, 8 p.m. (Fox)

Sept. 9 at Miami, 8 p.m. (Fox Sports South)

Sept. 12 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m. (Fox Sports South)


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