(SL) – Hector Tito Villalba scored a vicious volley from 35 yards out and Atlanta got stellar goal keeping from Brad Guzan to give Atlanta United FC a 1-0 victory over Orlando City FC at Orlando City Stadium on Friday in Florida. The Five Stripes welcomed Guzan who had two spectacular saves late to preserve the win but it was Villalba who had a very pedestrian game until he scored the game winner in the 86th minute.
The match was an equal match for the most part although Atlanta dominated possession 55% to 45% but City did out shoot United 14 o 8 but it was Villalba’s shot that counted in the end. Villalba received the ball directly from a throw in and found enough space to turn dribble and fire his shot past Orlando keeper Joe Bendik for the 1-0 lead.
Orlando City did not have a natural geographical rival until United entered MLS this year. The pre-match trash talking seemed to cross the line at times in the build up to the first ever meeting of the clubs but no major incidents were reported.
Atlanta used the win to solidify their 4th place standing in the eastern conference playoff race with 33 points; 6 points behind first place Toronto FC. The rematch is Sunday 4:30pm at Bobby Dodd. The match at The Bob is a sellout for United, it’s 8th consecutive and the last match before moving into Mercedes Benz Stadium in September.
(SL) – Pop star Bruno Mars has a song called “24 Karat Magic in the air”. Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron was 24K magic on the field for the 5 Stripes on Saturday night. His sorcery was on full display as he registered his first Hat Trick in Atlanta’s 4-1 dominating victory over first place Houston Dynamo at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Atlanta used superior possession 63% to 37% to control the game from the start. It took a while for United to unlock the puzzle box which was the bunkered Dynamo defense but when they did, the goals came quickly.
A wickedly powerful left footed shot opened the scoring for ATL in the 30th minute of the match. Almiron picked up a pass from teammate Yamil Asad on top of Houston’s area and his first touch set up his scoring strike perfectly for the 1-0 lead.
Almiron’s second goal was more impressive. Julien Gressel’s run to the goal line and cut back cross eventually found Asad who set up Almiron, who showed incredible strength as his first shot from the top of the box was blocked by a Houston defender but Almiron kept his composure and was able to deposit a left footed sliding shot into the top of Houston’s net for the 2-0 lead.
Gressel scored the third Atlanta goal after some scrappy and persistent play in front of the Dynamos net by United. The midfielder, benefited from a good slide tackle from Hector Villalba that caused a turnover. Gressel picked up a loose ball in Houston’s area and his side footed finish beat Houston keeper Joe Willis to push the lead to 3-0.
Atlanta closed out their scoring with Almiron converting a penalty kick after Villalba was pushed down in the penalty area for a 4-0 lead. Houston did pull a goal back on a penalty kick converted by Erick Torres after handling was called on Jeff Larentowicz for the 4-1 final score. The PK should not have been awarded because Houston Attacker and Atlanta native Ricardo Clark was in an offside position when his cut back was handled by a sliding Larentowicz.
Atlanta should have revenge on their minds when they host NYCFC Sunday at 5pm at Bobby Dodd stadium. NYCFC beat Atlanta 3-1 three weeks ago in The Bronx. United seems to have righted their ship and with a boat load of home matches should have a great chance for a playoff birth