Southeast rivals Orlando City SC and Atlanta United battled to a 0-0 draw in their season opener on Saturday afternoon, with neither Eastern Conference team could turn possession into a breakthrough.

Alexandre Pato, in his Orlando City debut, nearly one-timed home a Chris Mueller cross in the 72nd minute that would have given his new team a 1-0 lead. But Atlanta center back Anton Walkes made a block and goalkeeper Brad Guzan swallowed up the effort.

Pato seemed most likely to score, though he departed in the 80th minute with an apparent right knee injury. The Brazilian forward exited under his own power after landing awkwardly, with fellow offseason signing and Dutch winger Silvester van der Water entering from the bench.

Pato was key in another promising opportunity for Orlando, exchanging a give-and-go with midfielder Sebastian Mendez atop the 18-yard box in the 62nd minute. Yet neither player could steer home their near-range efforts, seemingly getting in each other’s way.

For Atlanta United, Josef Martinez made his league return after tearing his ACL during the Five Stripes’ first match of the 2020 MLS season. Veteran Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez got the start, with head coach Gabriel Heinze managing his star striker’s fitness after Atlanta reached the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals earlier this week.

Looking to steal a late game-winner, Atlanta midfielder Franco Ibarra nearly snuck home a long-range blast in the 90th minute. But Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese got low to parry away Ibarra's shot, preserving the clean sheet.

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Goals

  • None

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: In a rivalry that has plenty of off-field spice, the final product was somewhat lacking on this occasion. It’s still early in the season, but Orlando and Atlanta would both hope for more – especially in the final third. The Lions are looking to continue their progress in year two under head coach Oscar Pareja, while the Five Stripes are looking to put 2020’s downturn in the rearview mirror under new coach Heinze.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Alexandre Pato’s injury was probably the game’s biggest takeaway. With Daryl Dike still on loan at English Championship side Barnsley, the one-time Brazil national team star’s health is of the utmost concern.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Atlanta center back Miles Robinson seems to really be thriving in this new system, providing clearances and shutdown defense. Robinson's role might be overlooked on a team chock full of South American talent, but it’s undoubtedly essential.

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