It’s been a banner year for Atlanta United. The club is on pace to finish with the best record in the MLS in only their second season. They are currently three points up on the next closest team, the New York Red Bulls, and they are just a few games away from already clinching a playoff spot. This Friday, Atlanta faces its biggest rival in Orlando City. The game is in the Sunshine State, but Atlanta United is likely to be favored as the Lions are the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Don't miss the Major League Soccer action from Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, August 24, 2018. Catch every moment of the match live on ESPN.
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Orlando City has had a nightmare year. After a strong start to the season, the Lions have completely fallen off a cliff and the playoffs look like nothing more than a mirage in the desert at this point. This team has not a match since July 14, and Orlando City has picked up a result in just one of its last five games.
The defense has been the culprit behind the poor play. Orlando City has allowed a stunning 57 goals over 24 games, and the Lions are the only team in the league to give up more than two goals per game on average. Their poor defending has been amplified over the last five games, as Orlando City has conceded 15 goals in that stretch. That has nullified some very good performances on offense, because the team has knocked in 10 goals as well during this timeframe. Discipline has been an issue too, with the Lions picking up three red cards in their last four games. They have given up two goals while down a man, so while it hasn’t helped, it hasn’t been the main reason behind the poor defense either.
Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez is going to smash the MLS record for goals in a season. Martinez tied the single-season scoring record last weekend with a strike in the 31st minute against Columbus to open the scoring in a 3-1 win over the Crew. It was his 27th goal in 25 games, and many are already claiming he has had the best season in MLS history. It’s hard to argue that claim. He looks set to crush the record with nine games remaining in the season.
Over the last six weeks, Atlanta has maintained its blistering pace. The club’s last loss came in Dallas on July 4th, and since then Atlanta is 4-2-0. This offense has been fantastic all season long, and the last time they were shut out came all the way back on May 9, when Brad Guzan picked up a red card in the 34th minute in a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Defenders Lamine Sane and Jonathan Spector have been ruled out for this game due to lower-body injuries. Spector has been bitten by the injury bug this season, and his continued absence has really hurt a team looking for stability in the back. Midfielders Sacha Kljestan and Yoshi Yotun are both questionable with Kljestan dealing with a right ankle injury while Yotun has had an issue with his right foot.
For Atlanta, defender Greg Garza and midfielder Darlington Nagbe are both long-term injuries. Garza has been out for three months and Nagbe has been out for two, but both players may return relatively soon. Garza could be cleared to return as early as next month, while Nagbe might be given the green light in the coming weeks. Defenders Sal Zizzo and Mikey Ambrose have been declared out, and it’s unlikely we see Ambrose for the remainder of the year.
Free Soccer Betting Pick
Atlanta United has already defeated Orlando City twice this season, including once on the road. It’s hard for me to go against them considering the recent performances of both teams, so I’ll back Atlanta United on the goal line.
Major League Soccer Odds: Atlanta United 2, Orlando City 1
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