Quarterfinals Preview: LAFC take on Orlando City SC

LAFC vs. Orlando MLS is Back
Photo of LAFC courtesy of Matt Stith & Devin L'Amoreaux/Major League Soccer.

Editorial — The Quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament begin Thursday. However,  LAFC face the host-side Orlando City SC on Friday night. While this looks to be one-way traffic on paper, LAFC know all too well the dangers of matches like this one.

Based purely on tournament play, Orlando City has been one of the best teams. They’ve gone unbeaten, winning all but one match, a draw against Philadelphia. In addition, they topped Group A, with wins over NYCFC and in-state rival Inter Miami. New head coach Oscar Pareja has only been in charge for six matches. However, it’s clear these aren’t the same Orlando City pushovers.

Orlando City SC

Pareja has done wonders considering how his inaugural tenure as head coach has gone. After the start, and stop, to the 2020 season, Pareja made sure his side came into MLS is Back ready to shock the league. Employing a double-pivot, Orlando has seen an increase in offensive production as well as improvements defensively.

Through four matches, Orlando has outscored opponents by a combined 7-3. They’ve not allowed more than one goal in match all tournament. Perhaps most frightening is the confidence with which this team plays. They have begun to believe they can beat anyone, LAFC included. With extra days rest and a familiarity with the conditions, Orlando have more of an advantage than any underdog team playing LAFC has ever had.

LAFC

About those extra days, LAFC won’t have that. While Orlando has two extra days of rest, LAFC will come into Friday after playing a physical Seattle squad just four days prior. Speaking ahead of the match, Bob Bradley touched on the turnaround.

“We lost a day both before Seattle and now before Orlando, so that feels a little bit tight,” Bradley said.

While the short-turnaround and weather conditions aren’t ideal by any stretch, the expectations are still the same, winning the tournament.

“Whether it’s group stage, semi-finals, quarterfinals, finals, we’re going into the game to play our best football,” defender Dejan Jokavic said. “That’s all that there is to it.”

While normally a team playing two matches in a short time period would be expected to falter at some point, LAFC should be the exception. After a few rocky performances in group stage, this team appears acclimated to the conditions, with newfound form.

The emergence of Diego Rossi, not just on the scoresheet, but as a leader, has proven critical for their success. As this team finds their identity without their best player (Carlos Vela), they only continue to get better. That should scare everyone.

Match Outlook for LAFC vs. Orlando 

This will be a more interesting match than many will give it credit for. While LAFC are the heavy favorite, and expected to score multiple goals, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Orlando make it close. They may not have the same reputation of Portland or Seattle, but the Lions are just as physical.

Having being called for over 40 fouls and shown over eight yellow cards in this tournament alone shows that Orlando won’t break down easily. However, LAFC have gotten used to rough play, and it will take more than a few late challenges to throw them off their game. Expect Rossi and Rodriguez to continue asserting themselves as they guide their side to a 3-1 win.

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