Rivalry Week - 2019 - ORL vs ATL

Atlanta United vs Orlando City: Southeast rivalry awaiting Lions' roar

The atmosphere is always electric and the action intense whenever these two Southeast rivals come together.

The bad blood has been present from the start, despite the fact that both clubs are recent arrivals to MLS with Orlando City joining in 2015, followed by Atlanta United two years later (2017). 

Roots of the Rivalry

Orlando City's fiercely passionate supporters put soccer on the map in the Southeast of the United States, and Atlanta United raised the bar even higher to the tune of record-breaking attendances, an MLS Cup trophy and one of the best single seasons in MLS history in 2018.

And Atlanta haven't been shy about it, announcing their presence with a billboard on I-4 (photo below) that set the tone for the dynamic of the rivalry before the first match between the two sides was ever played in 2017: "Orlando, we're coming to conquer."

It hasn't hurt that most every match between the two has been eventful and memorable.

Memorable Moments

That first-ever meeting had an ending that lived up to the billboard hype, with Hector "Tito" Villalba scoring a late road winner which also eventually won the 2017 Goal of the Year award. Watch it below: 

The series has also seen a see-saw 3-3 draw, a stoppage time equalizer (that man, Villalba again) and Josef Martinez setting a new single-season goal-scoring mark in MLS. Martinez seems to enjoy inflicting damage on the Lions, scoring seven goals in six all-time regular season matchups.

That's on the field. There have also been several epic tifos that have served to heighten expectations for these meetings. 

Ian Ayre took over as Nashville SC CEO in May 2018 | USA Today Sports Images

MLS Regular Season

Many will argue that it's not a rivalry until both teams have had their moment on top.

That's not been the case in Atlanta vs. Orlando, with the Five Stripes still undefeated all-time in all competitions against the Lions. Atlanta have a lopsided 6W-0L-2D record against Orlando in MLS play heading into 2020. 

2019: Little changed in 2019, with Atlanta claiming yet two more 1-0 wins on May 12 in Atlanta and August 23 in Orlando.

2018: Exploria Stadium became a home away from home for Atlanta United with 2-1 wins in both matchups at Exploria Stadium (May 13 and August 24), sandwiching a 4-0 thumping at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (June 30) during a season in which Orlando fans had to endure witnessing an MLS Cup-winning run by the Five Stripes.

To add insult to injury, the August 24 match in Orlando saw Atlanta's Josef Martinez break the MLS single-season scoring record.

2017: The matchups were wild from the start. Villalba's 86th-minute Goal of the Year strike decided the first-ever match at Exploria Stadium (July 21) and Villalba did it again to Orlando just eight days later (July 29) with a stoppage-time equalizer at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

In a cracking third and final regular season meeting in 2017, Orlando took the lead on three different occasions only to see Atlanta's Josef Martinez respond all three times with a hat trick in front of 70,425 in the third match ever played at new Mercedes-Benz Stadium (September 16). 

U.S. Open Cup

Atlanta also won the only U.S. Open Cup knockout match between the two sides: a professional 2-0 blanking of the Lions in a 2019 semifinal. The result allowed Atlanta United to advance and host the 2019 U.S. Open Cup final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They eventually won the title.