So, Is It A Rivalry Now? Atlanta United Gets 3 Points In Orlando

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 05: The Atlanta United fans cheer during the game against the New York Red Bulls at Bobby Dodd Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 05: The Atlanta United fans cheer during the game against the New York Red Bulls at Bobby Dodd Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images) /

There was an inclination that the Atlanta United-Orlando City match would get ugly off the pitch before the teams would even get onto the pitch in central Florida.

It did.

Smoke bombs, expletives, billboards (defaced and otherwise), and even an alleged assault as fans were trying to find tailgates.

Especially, when everyone was inside the stadium, the OCSC fans went all “Walking Dead” for their tifo.

“Which one of you do I choose to enjoy Lucille> A player or a supporter’s group?”

That’s some deep thinking there.

All The Makings of a Rivalry

All of the stuff off the pitch translated early on when Kaka of all people picked up the first yellow in the third minute. And it would be the new guy that would come up big as evidenced below.

In a match that was chippier in the second 45 than the first, everyone in the building would have to wait for one of those “Why Not” moments from a guy who likes “The Walking Dead” as a TV series, but didn’t get all the madness before the match.

Big. Game. Tito.

Atlanta United proved to themselves that you can win ugly on the road when you need to do it. Temporarily, they were a point behind third-place NYCFC (until they took out Chicago Saturday afternoon to widen the advantage back to four points).

1-0. Get into town. Get out of town.

Another clean sheet and a notch closer to the gaggle at the top of the standings in the Eastern Conference. Team captain Michael Parkhurst knows how important it is to keep the defense humming- even with someone new between the sticks for the first time in 20 matches:

"“It says we have played really well defensively. It’s a good turn around, it’s a mentality thing.We now go into games thinking we could get a shutout, knowing that we could do some thingsright. Guys are just stepping up and making plays. “Whether that’s our offensive guys making plays, picking balls off, Jeff [Larentowicz] or Carlos [Carmona], or in the back line with Brad [Guzan] making big saves. Everyone is just chipping in doing their part and making the plays that they need to. And we have to get a little lucky sometimes and maybe we did on [Jonathan] Spector’s chance today. But we will take it. It’s a nice asset for the team”"

Tata Still Doesn’t buy it yet.

"“I think we’ll have to wait another 50 years to find out. We need another 50 years and 100 games between the two teams before we can call it a rivalry. Atlanta has only played 20 games in the league so far. I appreciate the enthusiasm you guys have about it but it’s far from being arivalry.”"

And Guzan would like to wait as well before all the talk of rivalry.

"“I think you come into this environment, this atmosphere it’s hostile. There are probably afew things going on off the pitch that you guys [media] made a big deal about. I think there area few people including their manager that said, ‘Listen, rivalries aren’t just you can’t just makethem, they have to be formed.’ But with both of us being from the southeast, being so close toeach other, two good teams, two attacking teams, I think that’s what it’s going to come down to.”"

Martino, at the same time, wasn’t all that happy with what happened on the field, even though his side got full points:

"“I thought we played a good first half. We controlled possession and we had some chances toscore. I don’t think we played as well on the second half. We didn’t have as many chances, wescored a great goal but it was out of context of how that half went and I don’t think we reallydeserved it at that point.”"

What We Saw 

Tito Villalba isn’t flinching in big game situations and needed to be a stabilizing force up top with the injury to Josef Martinez (listed as a “foot contusion”) that he has been playing through since the Open Cup match against Charleston.

Will Martinez be ready for Round 2? Dunno, but the line-up seen in Orlando wasn’t all that unfamiliar to fans of the #5Stripes. It took a while to warm up, and it took one of “those” moments to get it figured out, but it did get figured out eventually.

Let the rematch discussions begin, it will be here before you know it. And the party to say “good-bye” to the team’s first home, Bobby Dodd Stadium, should be one to remember.