Atlanta United will be looking for a victory against a rival they once dominated when they visit Orlando City SC on Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium.
Atlanta won seven of nine games in all competitions in their first three years of meetings against Orlando, which has turned the tables with a win and two draws so far this season.
Of more immediate concern to Atlanta United (5-11-4, 19 points) is their form against everyone else, which has dropped them to 12th in the 14-team Eastern Conference. Interim coach Stephen Glass' squad is winless in its last five and has just two victories in its last 14 matches.
The worst loss may have come in Saturday night's 2-1 home defeat to 13th-place D.C. United. But Glass was at least encouraged by his team's response to D.C. taking a 77th-minute lead, leveling the match late before Gelmin Rivas scored D.C.'s stoppage-time winner.
"When we went behind the other night, you saw a real determination," Glass said. "We were unfortunate not to get one or three points the other night. If that urgency is there from minute one, you give yourself a better opportunity."
Defender Miles Robinson is likely out because he is believed to be the Atlanta player who has recently tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Orlando (8-3-8, 32 points) enters after a 12-match unbeaten run was halted in a 2-1 loss to Inter Miami over the weekend. The Lions' momentum had been slowing, with ties in the last three games of that unbeaten run.
Orlando City has missed the playoffs in each of its first five seasons, but first-year coach Oscar Pareja's group finds itself in the unfamiliar position of having already clinched a spot.
A win could help the fourth-place Lions secure one of the top four spots and a home first-round playoff matchup. The club sit two points in front of fifth-place New York City FC, and three behind third-place Columbus.
"It's important in this situation where we can not only add three points, but win a game that's important," Pareja said. "We're always concentrating where we can be. We would like to be amongst the top two or three in the conference. If we can win against Atlanta, it'll be even better."
--Field Level Media
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Chris Mueller scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season on a free kick just moments before halftime, and Orlando City defeated Atlanta United 4-1 on Wednesday night to inch closer to securing a home game in the first round of the MLS playoffs.
Rookie Daryl Dike added his sixth goal of the season, then set up teammate Tesho Akindele for his third in just Akindele's sixth start of the season.
Matheus Aias added a late insurance tally on a free-kick deflection for fourth-place Orlando (9-3-8, 35 points), which remained two points above fifth-place New York City FC in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand.
Orlando has already clinched its first postseason berth. It will host a first-round playoff match if it finishes fourth or higher.
City also completed the four-game season series against Atlanta with two wins and two draws, after going winless in their first nine matches in all competitions against United.
Erick "Cubo" Torres scored his first goal late for Atlanta (5-12-4, 19 points), which lost its third in a row and is winless in its last six (0-4-2).
United remains at risk of missing the postseason for the first time in its four-year history after beginning the night in 12th, two points beneath the 10th and final playoff spot in the East.
Dike gave Orlando the lead in the 29th minute when he took down Ruan's early cross, spun his defender and fired a low half-volley past goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Mueller doubled Orlando's lead in the second minute of first-half stoppage time after earning a free kick roughly 30 yards from the goal. Former Portugal and Manchester United star Nani, Orlando's normal free-kick taker, stepped away from it, and Mueller curled a brilliant right-footed strike over Atlanta's defensive wall, beyond Guzan's dive and inside the left post.
City put the game out of reach 15 minutes into the second half when Dike set up Akindele.
Torres answered with a header of a corner kick in the 87th minute, before Aias completed the scoring in second-half stoppage time.