Season of firsts under Oscar Pareja continues

By Official Florida FC

It’s a rivalry now. Orlando City has finally beaten Atlanta United.

The Lions went into Mercedez Benz Stadium, with a rotated starting XI, and beat the Five Stripes 3-1 on Saturday afternoon.

Orlando City (4-2-2, 14 points) has won two straight matches. Unlike their contests against Inter Miami and Nashville SC, the Lions did not concede early.

It took an outstanding reaction save from Orlando City goalie Pedro Gallese in the eight minute.

If there was any indicator that 2020 is unlike any year prior, it came in how the first goal of Saturday’s game was scored. The goalkeeper spilled the ball for a soft goal. In years past, Orlando City would have conceded that type of opener, instead the Lions scored it via a header from Junior Urso.

Atlanta United (3-4-0, 9 points) made a pair of mistakes and Orlando punished them for its first and third goals.

“The message right away was that we were very happy for the group today that played with a lot of commitment, energy and discipline, especially,” Oscar Pareja told the team’s website. “They got three points that are going to be marked in the history of the club. The three points are the most important, but it’s motivation as well for them knowing that this is the first time they beat Atlanta. We’re happy, we keep going. There’s a short turnaround and we’re proud of those boys, they’re doing well.”

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Orlando had never beaten Atlanta in eight previous meetings.

That changed because the Lions pressed Atlanta into mistakes, Gallese made a handful of stellar saves and Orlando City turned gifts into goals.

Urso’s opener came in the 14th. Later in the half, he won possession while the Lions were pressing to set up Orlando’s second from Chris Mueller in the 36th. Daryl Dike assisted Mueller’s goal.

Dike earned his third straight start at center forward for Orlando. The 20-year-old has shown he can hold the ball up, run off the shoulder of defenders, ability to be in the right place to receive the ball in transition. Combine that with emphatic finishing and Orlando may have its answer at center forward.

Three goals and an assist in three league starts would indicate that is the case.

Atlanta scored a late goal; but, Nani ended the game minutes later when Urso unselfishly laid the ball off to the Lions tailsman in the 87th.

Orlando is 5-2-4 when Nani scores. Saturday’s win in Georgia’s capital city may have been the biggest victory yet.

Saturday’s win vaults the Lions into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Orlando City is four points ahead of seventh-placed Montreal (3-3-1, 10 points) for the final playoff spot. However, the Impact have a game in hand.


Orlando travels to Nashville (1-4-1, 6 points) on Wednesday night. The Lions beat Nashville 3-1 on Aug. 26 in a game that was more one-sided than the score indicated.

Nashville scored the opener in the first meetings between the clubs. An equalizer from Mueller as well as a brace from Dike ensured Orlando took all three points.

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