Orlando City makes its way west for the first of two trips to Los Angeles this month. This time, the Lions will get their first crack at expansion side LAFC, which has surged near the top of the Western Conference under Bob Bradley thanks to an embarrassment of riches in the attack. While Orlando is in the middle of an eight-match slump, Los Angeles is on a tear, having gone unbeaten in its last four. It will be a tough task for James O’Connor in his first match in charge of his former club.
Because this is the first showdown between the Lions and the Wings, Alicia Rodriguez — manager of SB Nation’s Angels on Parade — has taken the time to give us some more information about the league’s newest side.
What kind of style has Bob Bradley brought to LAFC and what will the expansion side look to exploit this weekend?
Alicia Rodriguez: I guess the basic answer here is that unlike Bradley’s U.S. Men’s National Teams, this LAFC pretty much uses a run-and-gun approach. The team has put in a few shutouts during the season, but it definitely doesn’t count on locking it down defensively, instead looking to overwhelm opponents in attack and possession. The result is that their games are nearly always entertaining, and they have been getting results more often than not.
LAFC is coming off two games in the span of a few days, and while I expected Bradley to rotate several players for Tuesday’s game in Houston, he didn’t. Since this team is so new, it’s hard to know exactly how it’s going to approach the whole season, but I am currently running with the expectation that he’ll play close to the same lineup as he did on Tuesday, so maybe a few changes at most. The team will be aiming to score early and often against Orlando, as usual.
LAFC has surged to third in the West and often looks nothing like a brand new team full of strangers. What has worked well to get LAFC into the position it’s in?
AR: A lot of factors have contributed to the outstanding start to life as a soccer team. Bradley is the heart of it, with his approach after several years abroad showing he’s capable of taking risks and having them mostly come off. Even with setbacks, he doesn’t seem to want to make wholesale changes, and instead continues to preach this exciting brand of soccer.
Beyond that, this team needed the right players to kickstart the team’s history. GM John Thorrington had never run a soccer team before, but the personnel decisions made have pretty much gone off without a hitch so far. Carlos Vela has been a star, Diego Rossi and Adama Diomande have been very good additions in the attack, several MLS-experienced players have slotted in well, the club’s signed draft picks have been contributing and there is still another Designated Player arriving in the summer transfer window in Portuguese midfielder Andre Horta. It’s odd to say, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it is conceivable this team could get even better in the final months of the season.
Carlos Vela had an excellent World Cup for Mexico. What kind of role do you expect him to have this weekend coming off Mexico’s loss to Brazil?
AR: I haven’t seen anything definitive yet, but I would be surprised if Vela plays for LAFC against Orlando. LAFC isn’t in a desperate position at the moment. They’ve actually weathered the World Cup break far better than most expected (they’re on a four-game unbeaten streak in league play), and Vela may be given some time to integrate or even a mini-vacation to clear his mind. Not to overlook this game, but LAFC has two big games coming up, including a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal, and as long as he’s healthy he’ll definitely be back for that match.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
AR: No one is suspended at the moment, and figuring Vela is out, recent injuries to contributors include midfielder Eduard Atuesta, midfielder/defender Omar Gaber, and forward Diego Rossi, who has been listed as questionable recently. Latif Blessing was injured against the Dynamo, there’s been no word yet about his status but I’ll guess he’s out. Another World Cup absence was forward Marco Ureña, but my hunch is he’ll be available for selection.
GK: Tyler Miller
D: Steven Beitashour, Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman, Joao Moutinho
M: Benny Feilhaber, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Lee Nguyen
F: Diego Rossi, Marco Ureña, Adama Diomande
Predicted score: 3-2 LAFC win
Thanks again to Alicia for taking the time to give us the lowdown on LAFC.