The quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament are almost upon us. Orlando City did well to win a tricky match-up with the Montreal Impact in the Round of 16, but now things get exponentially more difficult with LAFC standing between the Lions and the semifinals.
To prepare for tomorrow’s game I spoke to Alicia Rodriguez, manager of SBNation’s Angels on Parade, and she was kind enough to bring us up to speed on how LAFC has been doing this year. I also answered a few of her questions about Orlando City, which you can find over at their place.
Much was made about how the absence of Carlos Vela would affect LAFC but scoring goals certainly hasn’t been an issue for the team in this tournament. Who’s been stepping up to the plate offensively?
Alicia Rodriguez: They’ve been getting scoring from several sources, but the biggest one is Diego Rossi. He has seven goals in four games, including one game where he scored four goals and assisted on a fifth. The young Uruguayan is blossoming as a first option with Vela at home, and he’s been playing great.
Aside from him, Bradley Wright-Phillips has slotted in after signing in the off-season and has three goals in four games. Another young Uruguayan, Brian Rodriguez, has scored two goals in Orlando. It sounds like a paradox, but Carlos Vela is both the best player in MLS and LAFC really haven’t missed him at all so far in this tournament.
I know there was a bit of concern for some supporters regarding LAFC’s two draws during the group stage, where the team conceded three goals against the Houston Dynamo and two against the Portland Timbers. Then, however, they only allowed the defending MLS champs to score once and rarely looked in real danger at the back. What do you make of this team defensively?
AR: I think defense is definitely a weakness for this team. Their high-octane style that requires a lot of pressing and an attack-first mentality means the defense is often left to scramble when there’s a breakdown. Head Coach Bob Bradley is well aware of the pitfalls of this approach, but don’t expect him to change it up and park the bus. Orlando will get some looks, and if LAFC aren’t able to recover and perform their emergency defending, then the Lions can find goals if they can make their chances count.
What do you think is the key to success for LA tomorrow? What do they need to do in order to advance?
AR: I think the key is for LAFC to play as well as they did against the Sounders. I’m a bit concerned about this team winning a big game and then having a letdown the next one. The win over the Sounders was a big one for LAFC — will they come out flat as a result against Orlando? I certainly don’t think LAFC will overlook Orlando, but I do think it’s possible they could be lacking some intensity, and if that’s the case, it will continue a worrying trend.
Are there any players who will not be available for selection due to injury or suspension? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
AR: Adama Diomande is out through injury, obviously so is Vela for personal reasons.
Lineup: Kenneth Vermeer; Tristan Blackmon, Dejan Jakovic, Eddie Segura, Diego Palacios; Latif Blessing, Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye; Brian Rodriguez, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Diego Rossi.
Note: score prediction not provided here, but you can get Alicia’s pick on this week’s PawedCast.
Thanks again to Alicia for the info on tomorrow’s opponents. Vamos Orlando!