Orlando City

From one derby to the next, Orlando City staying locked in for rival Atlanta United


KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When Orlando City designated player Martín Ojeda was optioned to the bench for the Lions most recent matchup against Inter Miami, it was somewhat unexpected.

Ojeda's adjustment to MLS and Orlando has been slow, but has showed progression over the last few matches. As he came into the contest in the 63rd minute, he was already mentally ready to make an immediate impact.

"You have to be prepared in whatever role the coach selects you in whether they select you as a starter or whether you are selected as a sub," he said, "I've learned over the last few years is you always have to be ready and prepared to do whatever the coach asks you to do. I've been ready, he selected me as a sub in that game and I wanted to make sure that I was ready for when I got my chances."

Just four minutes into stepping onto the pitch, Ojeda made a run in behind the Miami backline and his forward compatriot Ercan Kara found him over the top, putting him one-on-one with goalkeeper Drake Callender. The Argentine took one quick touch to settle himself at the top of the box and slotted it past the keeper, putting Orlando back on top. It was the eventual game-winning goal for the Lions, as they scored three total goals in the match, the others coming from Kara and Rafael Santos.

"We've intended and made intentional about our work during the week is trying to get more goals and trying to score more," Ojeda said. "It's something that the entire team has been working on as a unit, the technical staff has been really focusing on throughout each week to try and improve going in each game because we know that that's something that can help us stay on the front foot.

"It was great to great to see that come to fruition in the game and that we just continue working to make sure that we're able to continue that."

For Rafael Santos, the goal marked his first in Orlando and first in MLS. Just minutes before scoring his goal, he had a very similar chance that was pulled just off the frame of goal. The second opportunity, he lined up from the outside of the box and drove it home.

"It's very special goal, my first goal here in MLS and it happened to be in a good moment of the game," he said. "Obviously it's extra special for being in the derby. So we're just gonna keep moving forward and hopefully it's the first of many."

The goal celebration also marked a special moment for Santos, as his wife is pregnant with their first child.

"I did it for the baby and, hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to tell him I scored that goal thinking about him."

With Miami now in the rear-view mirror, the Lions now turn their attention to another rival: Atlanta United.

Since 2017, the Lions have had many closely contested matches with Atlanta, and over the course of Oscar Pareja's tenure as head coach, they have gone 3-2-4 against the team out of Georgia.

Now, with attention turning back home, Orlando will look to make it back-to-back rivalry results to finish out the month.

"Obviously [Atlanta] is a team as well that is looking for their best form just like many other teams in the league, including us," Pareja said, "They have guys up front obviously with crafty abilities and some others as well. We need to control similar to other Atlanta's probably that like to create sequences and like the possession of the ball. We have to consider all these things in a game plan. But obviously, we already know about them."

Odds and ends

  • Forward Gastón González was not at training this week after coming off the pitch during the Lions last match against Inter Miami. Head coach Oscar Pareja said that they are still waiting for the diagnosis for his hamstring and will wait to see the extent of the injury. For this upcoming weekend, he is listed as out.
  • Defender Luca Petrasso still remains out with a thigh injury but is "getting back to normal" according to Pareja. "We want to be precise with his recovery."

Don't miss Kickoff -60, airing one hour before Orlando City's match against Atlanta, exclusively on the LionNation App. Join host Gabrielle Amado and Orlando City’s English-language radio talents Evan Weston and Paul Shaw as they break down the upcoming match, with special guests appearing regularly throughout the season.

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