Orlando City SC - group celebration - win over Atlanta United

It took a few years, and more than a few tries, but Orlando City SC finally earned their first win over rivals Atlanta United last week. It was symbolic of the progress made so quickly under head coach Oscar Pareja in his first year with the club.


Orlando have been flying in 2020, starting with the MLS is Back Tournament where the Lions made a surprise run to the final. They continue to prove that they sit near the top of the Eastern Conference standings on merit, as evident by a commanding 3-1 win over Atlanta last weekend. 


“The win over Atlanta was great and massive for us, to win our first game against them in the history of our club," Pareja told reporters during a virtual press conference on Thursday. "But they didn’t give us six points, they gave us three points. We just have to have our feet on the ground, understanding we can beat any team in the league but any team can beat us. That’s the nature of this sport.”


Atlanta have a quick chance at redemption, as Orlando host their rivals on Saturday (8 pm ET | FOX in US, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada). 


Likely without star attacker Pity Martinez, who is closing in on a reported $18 million transfer to Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, Atlanta still boast plenty of attacking talent that interim head coach Stephen Glass is trying to get the most out of. Ezequiel Barco was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday after an injury, while new signings Jurgen Damm and Erick "Cubo" Torres are gaining match fitness and sharpness as well. 


Pareja pointed out Atlanta's prowess, with or without Martinez, but is focusing on his side's talent, led by winger Nani


“I don’t prepare the games for one player," Pareja said in reference to Martinez's impending transfer. "That’s Atlanta’s issue. I want to talk about Nani, I want to talk about Benji [Michel]. I prepare to get the best out of our players.”


Orlando's 3-1 victory over Atlanta last weekend was a complete performance, one made all the more impressive by the fact that it came without Nani, Mauricio Pereyra and Ruan in the starting XI. Orlando are hopeful for a similar outcome at Exploria Stadium. 


"This game is a different story," Pareja said. "We’ll be ready.”