It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Five Stripes lace em up. 16 days to be exact, but who’s counting? Me. I’m counting. While that may not look like that long, it’s felt like an eternity for all the Five Stripe fans who were used to watching United play a game every three days during the back half of June. Needless to say, we all can’t wait to watch the first match back tomorrow against our “rivals”, Orlando City.
- When: Friday, July 21st – 7:00 pm
- Where: Orlando City Stadium – Orlando, Florida
- Watch: ESPN
Atlanta United (9-7-3)
The Five Stripes will see an unfamiliar face for the first time Friday when GK Brad Guzan makes his first start with the club. After confirming that Guzan will be between the posts, Tata said: “The biggest challenge is just getting him used to how the team likes to play, and with the first team.” Many fans are skeptical of the new face because you could argue that Guzan has had a rough past, but the experienced goal keeper absolutely improves the level of play for Atlanta, especially following the injury of Alec Kann.
Atlanta recovered from some poor road form the last time they traveled when they beat Columbus Crew 2-0 behind Villalba’s two goals. Atlanta’s next two matches are against the lions, the first away and the second one home. Nothing would be more satisfying than to watch the Five Stripes take all three on the road, especially after the billboard that was recently spotted in Orlando.
This is just awesome, but not only is it awesome, it has completely triggered the Orlando City fans. Not only the fans, but the players seem to be bothered by it too. “It’s important because we’re both fighting for a playoff spot, not what they want to put up on I4 on some stupid billboard” said Orlando City defender Jonathan Spector.
A win on the road would basically guarantee six points for Atlanta United against their southeastern rivals. I’m not sure Atlanta will ever lose a game at home again, as they have won the past five at Bobby Dodd and will be playing with their ninth and final sell out crowd at their temporary home. Needless to say, the lions will be traveling into one of the most hostile environments in the MLS on the 29th.
The two-and-a-half week break was much needed for the United, as the fatigue was obviously beginning to set in after playing 10 matches in 24 days. All the players should be fully rested and ready to go and for that reason, this is how we’d line up our Five Stripes.
Guzan is the only new face in this starting XI. No other changes, just stick with what has been winning.
Orlando City SC (8-7-5)
Orlando City will be missing a pretty significant player in Cyle Larin Friday. The Lion’s leading scorer will miss the game as he will be playing with the Canadian National Team in the Gold Cup. That being said, the lions still have plenty of fire power.
One of the most well-known names in MLS and around the world wears #10 for Orlando City. Kaka has had an incredible career, with a world cup title and MLS MVP honors to back it up. The 35-year-old is still a dangerous presence in the midfield and will play alongside Miguel Almiron, Greg Garza and Michael Parkhurst in the MLS All Star Game.
Atlanta United’s two game win streak before the break lifted them just one point above the Lion’s on the table. A loss for Atlanta could push them all the way back to sixth place, and a win could bring them just one point short of NYCFC for third. This game is important for both sides as they look to solidify their playoff spots, so we are in for an exciting week.