Now that the Gold Cup break is, officially, over for Major League Soccer Multiplex asks a simple question:
When is a rivalry actually a rivalry?
Is it here?
Is it when a scoreboard is tested and this happens?
Is it when you do this to announce you’re coming to town?
Is it when someone gets “message board muscles” and makes a COMPLETELY, classless claim about what to call the rivalry? Referencing one of the most violent acts in American history, which was NOWHERE close to being clever, funny, or acceptable fan behavior…
Is it when something you try gets SO of the rails that this happens?
(ed. note: It was later divulged that both teams admitted publicly the billboard was set to come down Thursday anyway… but it did make for a good storyline for a few hours if, in fact, it’s the case…)
Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis addressed this “rivalry that’s not a rivalry until it’s a rivalry…” and said, just about, what you’d expect:
“I’m one that believes that rivalries are intrinsic, meaning that they happen through experiences. So I would say that it would be premature to be talking about whether or not they’re our rival. We shall see starting with the first 15 minutes of the match on Friday night and we’ll go from there to decide if they’re our rivals or not.”
That’s Off The Pitch… What About The Match, You Say?
First and foremost, welcome Brad Guzan (pronounced “G’Zahn,” by the way… WE’VE ALL BEEN DOING IT WRONG!) between the sticks for Atlanta United. His introductory press conference was this week and he gets his debut on the road.
Alec Kann is still over a month away from trying to see how his body will respond to full training.
Orlando City Needs Some Answers Quickly…
They’re not scoring goals, they’ve only won twice since May 3rd, and Cyle Larin was called in to international duty by his home country for their knock-out round match against Jamaica. Orlando City fans cursed the Canadian National Team when he was pulled after only 60 minutes or so.
Larin is not around for Friday night…
Jason Kreis knows what he’s getting in to:
"“Atlanta’s an extremely dangerous, dynamic attacking team. Some really, really good options. Their four players that play the highest up the field for them are very dangerous, very attack-oriented, very aggressive group. But they are not perfect. They have some problems of their own, which we will be looking to exploit.”"
Defender Jonathan Spector went into his concerns in facing one of the top offenses in MLS as well:
"“They’re good going forward. They’ve got a lot of attacking options. I know they like to press as well, high up the pitch. Not sure how that’ll play out, obviously in [Atlanta] it’s just as hot as it is in Orlando but we’ll see how they approach the game from the start. But I think we have to concentrate on ourselves more than them. We know we need to be solid defensively and better with the ball when we do win it back and make them work and defend for long stretches.”"
Atlanta United comes in to Orlando with a big 4-2 win at home on July 4th against San Jose. The win put the #5Stripes in fourth in the Eastern Conference and gave the team a boost into the Gold Cup break:
Defender Anton Walkes, who scored the match-winning goal, knew just how big it was:
"“It’s great momentum. It’s another win at home. We next go to Orlando and we’ve got themback to back. So if we can pick up a win away from home and then come and play them back in our home ground, that’s a great feeling we can build from.”"
So, what if Atlanta United just tries to use the “Peachtree Press” to run Orlando City out of the building?
Their. Own. Building.
Atlanta United still has the most potent offenses in MLS, having scored 39 goals this season (17 more than the Lions at present). Soon-to-be All-Star defender Michael Parkhurst gets to look at a guy like top All-Star snub Josef Martinez all week-long and knows what the fans get to see for 90 minutes is what he gets to see seven-days-a-week and got to see all over again in the win over the Earthquakes:
"“He’s always that way. He really is. He’s a goal scorer. That’s what he wants to do, that’s what he loves to do and he’s upset when he doesn’t do it. That’s what you saw last week and I think maybe he was a little extra hungry, extra motivated tonight. We know that at home he’s going to get his chances. He knows that, and he was very good again tonight for us.”"
So, when Orlando City midfielder Antonio Nocerino was asked about this match, there’s one adjectve that came to mind:
"“Friday is an important game because it’s been two weeks with no play and it’s important to play very well with the ball, without the ball, and especially when we play at home because it’s very important. The team has a good opportunity because Atlanta has one point in front and it’simportant.”"
Now, all we need to do is figure out what to call this thing?
With Juan Carlos Rivero holding the whistle and the cards (which he enjoys displaying and has for the last two Atlanta United matches in a row) anticipate chippiness early and often on the pitch and in the stands…
Friday, July 21 | Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida| 7:00 p.m. (EST)
Atlanta United (9-7-3, 30 points) vs. Orlando City (8-7-5, 29 points)
Talent: Adrian Healey (play-by-play), Taylor Twellman (analyst) and Julie Stewart Binks (sideline reporter)
English Radio: 92.9 The Game
Talent: Adam Schick (play-by-play) and Jason Longshore (commentator)
Spanish Radio: La Mejor 1600 AM
Talent: Armando Carillo (play-by-play) and Daniel Cantu (commentator)