After a resounding victory over the defending MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders on Monday night, LAFC has only three days to rest and prepare before facing Orlando City S.C. in the quarterfinals of the MLS Is Back Tournament on Friday night. (FS1, TUDN, ESPN app, Sirius XM FC, 980 AM). It is another challenge for the Black & Gold that head coach Bob Bradley is preparing the team to face.
“This is another short turnaround,” Bradley said. “Given the physical load of all the games, especially the game against Seattle, we will take that into consideration as we prepare.”
Bradley said that the players would have a film session on Wednesday to review the Seattle win followed by a light training on the field, before digging deep into Orlando specific preparations on Thursday.
“We are approaching this game like every other game,” LAFC defender Dejan Jaković said. “We are going into the game to play our best football, the only way we know how to play. That is all there is to it.”
Bradley is hoping his team will be able to use the time to recover and deliver the same type of effort they did vs. Seattle.
“Against Seattle we started very well, and picked the tempo up and really pushed the game,” Bradley said. “It was a strong effort and hopefully we can build on that as we prepare for Orlando.”
LIFE IN THE BUBBLE
It has now been 23 days for LAFC in the MLS “bubble” at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex, and bubble life is still…taking some getting used to.
“The bubble is the bubble,” Jaković said. “It is the same for everyone, it is a little repetitive, but that is to be expected.”
Bob Bradley was adamant about establishing a routine, and most players and staff have been able to settle in to one, while leaning on their team spirit and camaraderie to help ease the time and push through.
“Before we began everybody knew that the mental health aspect would be a challenge,” Bradley said. “And the ability to engage guys every day and make sure they are doing okay was going to be important. We have a very good group of guys and I think that is what has been key for us.”
Bradley was proud of the commitment of the players to making the bubble concept work, and their focus on playing.
“We all love the game and we appreciate the opportunity to be playing,” Bradley said. “I always give credit to the players because as you have seen, throughout the weeks here, the mentality has been right because of the way the players have handled things.”
CAN’T GET ENOUGH ROSSI
In early July, as the LAFC players began trickling back to the Performance Center in Los Angeles and working into shape in preparation for the MLS Is Back Tournament, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley could sense it. He could tell that Diego Rossi was ready, and he announced that it was Rossi who had already “set the bar the highest” in terms of physical conditioning.
“He looks like he didn’t miss a beat,” Bradley said at the time.
Now, four games into the tournament and a league-leading seven goals later, it is clear to everyone that Rossi is not missing any beats, but he is hitting all of the high notes as well.
After spending much of the time away from the Club working out at home with teammate Pancho Ginella, who moved in with him for several weeks, and fellow Uruguayan and MMA fighter Gaston Reyno, Rossi is on a roll. As of Monday, his seven goals in the tournament is more than every other team other than San Jose (11 goals) has scored. He also become the first player in LAFC history to score four goals in a game when he notched four vs. the Galaxy.
“Diego is a stud and he’s been an absolute baller for us,” Jaković said. “Especially in this tournament. He’s starting to show everyone what he is capable of doing.”
While Rossi has long been one of the most dangerous LAFC attackers and recognized as one of the top players in the league, his new-found shooting accuracy has led to the recent goal deluge.
“I think his biggest improvement since the start has been his finishing,” Jaković said. “I think his accuracy has improved, his work rate is always going to be up there, but I think creating those opportunities and then being able to finish them is what has separated him.”
Bradley agreed with his veteran defender.
“Diego has improved every year,” Bradley said. “He’s been a good player from the start, but he has grown, and he’s worked hard on his finishing. You see the improvement there.”
Joining LAFC as a 19-year-old offensive phenom from top Uruguayan club Peñarol, Rossi has now developed into a strong, dynamic attacker who is not only comfortable playing as a winger making sharp cuts toward goal, but also as a traditional number nine in the middle of the field when called upon.
“He is an excellent guy and he is smart,” Bradley said. “He has been a really good guy to work with from the day he arrived.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of Rossi’s growth and attitude is his ability to lead the way for the numerous talented, young South American prospects such as Eduard Atuesta, Eddie Segura, Brian Rodríguez, Pancho Ginella and Jose Cifuentes who have followed him to Los Angeles.
“He has set a great example for others,” Bradley said. “When you come to LAFC [from South America], Diego has shown it is a great place to develop and [scouts] will see you, so that is something that we are very proud of.”