Orlando City will face its third Western Conference opponent in a row this Saturday at 7:30 p.m., when the Lions take on LAFC. However, in this weekend’s match-up Orlando will have the luxury of playing at the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium. Let’s analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the top club in the Western Conference standings and the Lions’ next opponent.
One of the reasons that LAFC sits atop the west is that the team has one of the most prolific offenses in MLS. The Black & Gold rank third in the league in goals scored, with nine, and the club ranks second in goal differential at +7. They come at opposing defenses with a barrage of attacks, ranking fourth in the league with 64 total scoring attempts on the season. It is not just the amount of scoring attempts that LAFC gets that is the dangerous part however, as the club ranks third in on-target scoring attempts, with 24, which comes out to an accurate shooting percentage of 37.5%, leaving the Black & Gold ranked fifth in the league in that category. The problem that Orlando will face on Saturday is not just that LA creates plenty of scoring opportunities, but that the visitors are accurate when they get these chances, which is one of the reasons LAFC has the third most goals of any club.
For as impressive as LAFC has been on offense, it is equally as imposing on defense. The Black & Gold are tied for second in fewest goals allowed, conceding only two thus far. However, this is an area Orlando has been satisfactory with this season as well, only giving up three goals while also playing one more match than LA, which is an important distinction to note as the season is still young. One reason why the Black & Gold have conceded so few goals is because they are tied for first in fewest shots against, only allowing opponents nine shots against this year.
One area where Orlando may have the edge over LAFC is in one-on-one situations. The Lions currently rank fifth in the league in duel percentage at 53.7%, while the Black & Gold fall all the way to 26th in the category, sitting at 46.4%. If Orlando can get LAFC into more one-on-one situations throughout the game, the Lions may be able to capitalize on the opportunities presented to them in these scenarios.
Players to Watch
Forward Carlos Vela is the club leader for LAFC in goals scored and he is tied for the league lead in goals, with four. Vela has 12 scoring attempts this season, nine of which were put on target for a smooth 75% accuracy percentage. All four of Vela’s goals came inside the box, meaning that it will be important for Orlando to limit his attempts from this range.
Midfielder Jose Cifuentes leads the Black & Gold in assists with two so far on the young season. This is especially interesting considering he is a defensive midfielder. His ability to cause offensive trouble to opposing teams means that he could be one of the most impactful players on the pitch and is someone Orlando defenders need to keep an eye on come Saturday.
Ilie Sanchez is the main contributor in disrupting the opposition’s passing game for LAFC. Sanchez leads all players on the team in interceptions, getting in the way of opposing passes eight times in the club’s first four matches. He will be an important player for the Lions to steer clear from as they will hope to limit turnovers that could open up even more opportunities for an already menacing LAFC offense.
This is what I found when looking into the Lions’ next opponent. Let me know what you think in the comments and tell me what Orlando needs to do to come out with three points on Saturday. As always, Go Orlando!