Atlanta United has looked like a different team since their worst performance of the season against Austin FC where they suffered a 3-0 loss and the team was being openly criticized for a lack of effort. The club has been more aggressive and energized in the two matches since then. Unfortunately that effort was not enough to get a win against Orlando City SC on Sunday.
Atlanta United was the aggressor and more dominant club the entire match. How dominant? United lead in shots, shots on target, possession, and key passes. Against a playoff opponent, United was clearly the better team.
Despite the tie, Gonzalo Pineda, Head Coach of Atlanta United, said, " The team is back...Today, we played as a team. We fought, we connected." A much different tune from just a week ago.
Now for the controversy. In the tenth minute Orlando was awarded a free kick after George Campbell committed a foul against Facundo Torres. While United goalkeeper, Rocco Rios Novo, was lining up the defensive wall, referee Victor Rivas made a questionable decision to resume play.
This decision gifted Orlando City SC a free goal as Mauricio Pereyra was able to score on the free kick on what was, essentially, an empty net. United players attempted to argue the goal but to no avail.
From that point on Orlando played conservative in order to protect their 1-0 lead. That style continued even after United's Juan Jose Purata tied the match with a header in the 71st minute of match play.
While United made a furious rally to try and get another goal and the win, Orlando clearly was fine with walking away from the match with a draw. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Not the outcome this Atlanta club was looking for but it was the performance they were looking for. The draw moves United to 11th in the East and two points below the playoff line. Their next match will be on the road against the LA Galaxy.