Orlando City, Atlanta United play to scoreless draw in season opener

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Julia Poe, Orlando Sentinel
·2 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Orlando City welcomed an increased crowd of excited fans to Exploria Stadium for its home opener Saturday, but the Lions settled for a scoreless draw in a contentious rivalry match against Atlanta United.

A announced crowd of 11,503 fans packed the stands for the first Lions match of the year, a stadium sellout for the 50% capacity required by local government officials.

This was the highest attendance recorded at Exploria Stadium since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crowd welcomed Brazilian star Alexandre Pato for his debut, introducing himself to Orlando City fans for the first time. Although his chemistry is still new with his teammates, the striker showed flashes of pace and creativity with the ball at his feet.

He nearly punched in his first goal for the Lions in the second half, trading a series of passes with Sebas Méndez in the box that set up both players for chances on goal, but Méndez missed the final shot.

But Pato’s first match in Orlando was cut short only minutes later, when he landed awkwardly on his right leg in the 78th minute and sprawled immediately to the grass in pain.

Although Pato walked off the pitch, the moment sparked concern for Lions fans familiar with his extensive injury history.

Winger Silvester van der Water also made his debut in the match only two weeks after arriving in Orlando, entering for Pato.

The match marked the first time Pareja’s team faced Atlanta star Josef Martínez, who was injured for all of the 2020 season. Martínez saw limited minutes as a second-half substitute, and the Lions defense smothered him for the final third of the match.

The Lions will now prepare for their first road match of the game, traveling to face Sporting Kansas City April 23.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.