Orlando City have exceeded all expectations finding themselves in the quarterfinal stage of the MLS is Back Tournament, but they will have to go above and beyond to proceed to the semifinals with tournament favorites LAFC standing in their way.
Orlando City vs LAFC: Match preview
These inter-conference foes have met twice before. LAFC have the advantage in the series, winning 4-1 at the Banc of California Stadium on July 7, 2018, and drawing 2-2 in Orlando on Sept. 7, 2019. Orlando now has a chance to claim their first victory against LAFC, a win that would see them face either San Jose or Minnesota in the semifinals.
After five years of mediocre results, Orlando City revamped its coaching and executive staff, and by the looks of it, it is paying off. New head coach Oscar Pareja has gained the trust of the board, players and fans after just six games in charge. Orlando City enters the quarterfinals with a record of 3W-2D-1L.
Orlando topped Group A finishing ahead of Inter Miami, Philadelphia Union and New York City FC, two of which are still alive in this tournament. The players credit Pareja's ability to get the best out of them and the coaching staff's attention to detail.
The Lions will miss striker Dom Dwyer, who picked up a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the competition. However, Tesho Akindele proved to be a good replacement scoring the lone goal that separated Orlando from Montreal in the opening round of 16 game. Wingers Luis Nani and Chris Muller will look to exploit Akindele's 6'1" frame with whipped crosses into the box.
Player to watch
Chris Mueller needs no introduction at this point in the tournament. The 23-year-old winger has three goals in four games. He scored his first against Miami on opening day and a brace in the following match against New York City FC. Add his goal against Colorado before the restart, and he sits at four goals in six games. He is just one goal away from equaling his 2019 goal tally of five goals, which took 29 matches to find. He only played 16 minutes against LAFC in last season's 2-2 draw, and he will look to make the best out of his start on Friday night.
Injuries: Dom Dwyer (OUT, knee), Junior Urso (questionable, muscle tightness)
LAFC finds themselves in a six-game unbeaten streak, although with three draws, as they enter the tournament's quarterfinal stage. Los Angeles failed to finish first in Group F despite scoring the most goals during group stage play. But they cemented their status as tournament favorites after mowing down the Seattle Sounders 4-1 in the round of 16.
Having scored 15 goals in four matches, the Black-and-Gold are the most volatile side in terms of attacking play. The forward combination of Diego Rossi, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Brian Rodriguez has proven to be fluent and effective. Also, Latif Blessing has served as an efficient and hard-working attacking midfielder sitting behind the line of forwards.
Bob Bradley's only worry going into the knock-out stages was his defense. LA's backline conceded seven goals in three games, tied for second worst in group stages, but redeemed itself after conceding just one goal to Seattle in the round of 16 fixture. Bradley's high-pressing approach proved to be successful against the Sounders, and he will direct his team to be as aggressive in Orlando's defensive third.
Player to watch
The Uruguayan national is keeping an eye out for promising forwards as the Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani era reaches its conclusion. And to little surprise, LAFC forward Diego Rossi is in Oscar Tavares' shortlist for possible replacements. The 22-year-old is levels ahead of the competition scoring seven goals and registering an assist in four MLS is Back Tournament matches. A move to Europe is imminent given his form and age, but first, he will look to win the tournament and help his team win other trophies. Also, Rossi scored in his previous two matches against Orlando.
Luis Suárez y Edinson Cavani no son eternos y cada vez les queda menos tiempo en la selección uruguaya.— Nahuel (@NahuelBeau) July 28, 2020
Sin embargo, la nueva generación de delanteros centro asegura goles por muchos años:
• Maxi Gómez (23)
• Darwin Núñez (21)
• Federico Viñas (22)
• Diego Rossi (22) pic.twitter.com/kdgaRUpf8E
Injuries: Adama Diomande (OUT, right foot), Andy Najar (questionable, left adductor strain), Carlos Vela (unavailable, personal)
Orlando City vs LAFC: Broadcast information
Match details, result and original broadcast info
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