Preview — LAFC will have another chance to win the West this weekend, this time on the road in Orlando. LAFC will once again find themselves short-handed when they visit Orlando City SC, with seven players leaving for international duty.
In addition to players leaving, head coach Bob Bradley will have to make a decision on Carlos Vela. His absence was felt last weekend, with the team not having any real bite to the attack, ultimately losing at home 0-2.
Short-Handed LAFC visit Orlando City SC, can clinch Western Conference with win
However, while Vela may be ready to go, a cautious Bob Bradley might hold him out one more week. With the playoffs looming — and most of the squad unavailable — there is no point in overworking a returning Vela. In addition, Orlando City find themselves without several players as well. With five players unavailable, four of whom are regular starters, Orlando find themselves hosting a match that will be about attrition, as much as tactics and talent.
Orlando City SC
Orlando heads into the match with their playoff lives at stake. Sitting four points from the final playoff spot, they currently find themselves on the outside looking in. Under normal circumstances, a match with the league leaders would be a forgone notch in the loss column. However, this time around there is a sense of hope. If there was ever a time to pull off the upset of the season, this would be it. Unfortunately, with the team’s leading scorer away on international duty — and several key players injured — Orlando still face a steep hill for even a point.
Orlando will almost undoubtedly mimic the tactics seen from Minnesota last weekend. LAFC went with a more defensive approach with hopes to find a break on the counter-attack. With everything on the line for Orlando, and with LAFC set to miss so many players, expect them to come out with everything they have early.
At this point, you get it.
LAFC are missing a lot of players. However, this isn’t the first time, and many hope it won’t be the last. Just about the only negative that comes with being the best team in the league is that you will lose your players to their respective countries come call-up time. Fortunately, LAFC have been here before, earlier this season, and have a concrete “B-Team” in place.
The only question mark in terms of who will play Saturday night, is at the forward spot. In the likely event that Carlos Vela is held out, with both Brian Rodríguez and Fito Zelaya unavailable, it comes down to Adrien Perez. Having played just 122 minutes so far this season, his addition won’t exactly spark the attack. Whether it’s Vela in limited minutes or Perez for the entirety, LAFC come into the match wanting their bounce-back win. LAFC have won every match after a loss, by a combined score of 16-5.
This match may not have the big names, but it may end up as one of the more exciting matches on the weekend. With the omissions in LAFC, combined with the sheer desperation Orlando will have at home, things could get chaotic.
The MLS Playoffs are near and almost anything can happen. However, Orlando coming away with the three points, even against a short-handed LAFC sward, is improbable. Expect LAFC to wrap-up the West, all while giving Vela a much needed extra week of rest. LAFC wins on the road, 3-1.