2020 MLS is Back Tournament – Quarterfinals
Fri., July 31 – 4:30 PM PT
TV: FS1, TUDN / UniMás
RADIO: ESPN App, Sirius XM FC, 980 AM
The Black & Gold avenged their loss in the 2019 Western Conference Final Monday night, dismantling the defending MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders, 4-1. After falling behind due to an early goal in each of their three group matches, LAFC stormed out of the gate, blitzing the Sounders early and often in the first 45 minutes. Diego Rossi added his MLS-leading sixth and seventh goals of the tournament, helping the Club to the win and a date with Orlando City in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“We had three good games in the group,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “There were a lot of areas where we could still look to improve. Against Seattle, we started very well, picked the tempo up and really pushed the game. It was a strong effort and hopefully we can build on that as we prepare for Orlando.”
LAFC and Orlando City have only met twice in the past, with the Black & Gold owning the all-time series 1-0-1. They faced each other for the first time at Banc of California Stadium on July 7, 2018, with LAFC winning handily 4-1. The second match between the clubs ended in a 2-2 draw in Orlando on September 9, 2019. OCSC is one of the few MLS clubs that reigning MLS MVP and LAFC star Carlos Vela has not scored a goal against, who is not in action in the MLS Is Back Tournament. However, the current MLS-leading scorer Diego Rossi has scored a goal in both matches against the Lions.
Orlando City SC advanced to the MLS is Back Tournament quarterfinals after dispatching the Montreal Impact 1-0 following a miscommunication on the Montreal backline that led to a Tesho Akindele tap-in. Orlando finished first in Group A in the group stage with wins over Inter Miami (2-1) and New York City FC (3-1), and a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union. Orlando currently sits tied for third in the Eastern Conference with eight points overall.
Before sending home the Sounders in the Round of 16 MLS is Back Tournament matchup Monday night, LAFC advanced as the second position in Group F after the Club’s 2-2 draw against Portland in the final group stage match. The draw came after the Black & Gold came back from a halftime deficit vs. Houston in the first match of the tournament to ultimately draw 3-3, before sealing their group stage fate with a historic 6-2 victory over the crosstown rival Galaxy. LAFC currently sits in fourth place in the Western Conference with nine points overall.
ORLANDO CITY IN-DEPTH
This Orlando City team today looks vastly different than the squad that took to the field last year against the Black & Gold. Under new coach Óscar Pareja, Orlando has found a renewed vigor on the defensive side behind a cadre of young up-and coming players including former LAFC first-overall draft pick João Moutinho, forward Chris Mueller, as well as veteran leadership in Nani up top. This season, Orlando has been successful in limiting opponents attacks through the middle, a strength of LAFC.
“When a team plays with double sixes like Orlando, some of those half spaces change a little bit,” Bradley said. “But there is still an ability to move the ball quickly and find openings as the other team starts to move. We constantly work on how we can find space, trying to find ways to move forward, getting guys on the move. We have done that well throughout all the games. The way our wide attackers come inside, and then get forward. We’ll continue working on that.”
LAFC defender Diego Palacios has used his speed and defensive prowess to take opponents out of their attacking rhythm during the MLS is Back Tournament, but he is likely to face his biggest test of the season on Friday night vs. Orlando. The Lions boast a tough, speedy right side anchored by Ruan pushing forward and forward Chris Mueller. Palacios will have his hands full, and it should prove an interesting matchup to watch his side of the field.
LAFC WILL WIN IF…
They can maintain the intensity for 90 minutes that they showed against Seattle in the Round of 16. The 4-1 victory over the Sounders Monday night was an emotional victory, who were looking for some revenge after the disappointing loss in last year’s Western Conference Finals. The Black & Gold came into that match riding high after a similar emotional win in the playoffs over the Galaxy and suffered a bit of a let down vs. Seattle. LAFC finds itself in a similar place now, coming off a super-charged victory over a rival foe to face an Orlando City squad they have little history with. Simply put, if the Black and Gold can continue to maintain the fight and pressure they showed against the Sounders, they will find success Friday night.
ORLANDO CITY CAN WIN IF…
They are clinical in front of goal and take advantage of their opportunities. Throughout 2020, Orlando City has only registered 54 shots (compared to LAFC’s 103), but consistently in every game, the Black & Gold have created at least one strong scoring opportunity – and more often than not, they have capitalized on it. The Lions will find success if they can finish their big chances, and on the defensive side if they can limit LAFC’s efficiency through the middle and contain deadly through balls.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT…
Much is often made in a tournament format about time off in between matches. At kickoff on Friday, Orlando City will have had a full 48 hours more rest than LAFC. However, the Black & Gold is banking on their overall youth to help the Club bounce back quickly. Against Portland on July 23, LAFC started the youngest lineup in Club history, with an average age of 23.0 years.
Former LAFC number one draft pick João Moutinho has had a very strong MLS is Back Tournament. Moutinho was traded to Orlando for Libyan defender Mohamed El-Munir in late 2018, and the Black & Gold will need to be careful that a confident and surging Moutinho does not come out seeking vengeance against his former squad.