Lions will face MLS is Back favorite LAFC on July 31
By Official Florida FC
Orlando City will face its biggest obstacle in its quest to win its first trophy in the club’s Major League Soccer history.
Los Angeles Football Club is scoring goals for fun and will be the Lions’ quarterfinal opponent on Friday night at the Disney Wide World of Sports. LAFC also represents a test that must be passed if Orlando City is to evolve under manager Oscar Pareja.
Orlando City is 3-0-1 in four MLS is Back matches. This run is the ninth time in the club’s MLS history it has produced an undefeated run of at least four games.
One commonality between those previous stretches and this year is Orlando City is the Lions have been able to produce results against good teams, but rarely the league’s elite.
Orlando City went 2-0-2 last August with road draws and Toronto and Minnesota. The streak ended at home, against Atlanta, in prime time. A six-match winning streak in 2018 was also ended by an Atlanta squad that wound up winning MLS Cup that year.
In 2017, Orlando City went 1-0-3 during May and June, only to watch the run end in Ontario at BMO Field to eventual Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup champion Toronto FC. The Reds also ended Orlando’s four-game winning streak in May 2017.
A five-game unbeaten run in 2016 ended with a thud with a 4-0 loss to Pareja and FC Dallas. Current Lions forward Tesho Akindele provided an assist for a Dallas squad that won the U.S. Open Cup that year and lost the Supporter’s Shield on goal difference.
Last month, Akindele signed a new contract with Orlando City. The 28-year-old Canadian scored the only goal in Orlando’s 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact in the MLS is Back Round of 16.
Through four matches in the MLS is Back tournament, Orlando City has controlled possession 54.1 percent of the time. The question for Orlando is whether the Lions will finish the chances they create.
Orlando City has seven missed chances in four games. The Lions had more missed chances than Inter Miami and Philadelphia in the group stage as well as its Round of 16 win over Montreal. New York City FC missed more chances than Orlando City did in a July 14 contest. That was augmented by Orlando City scoring twice in the first 10 minutes put the Lions on the front foot from the outset.
“We are very proud of the effort of the players,” Pareja told reporters after the Round of 16 win over Montreal. “Tonight’s match was (against) very difficult opponent, different to the ones we have faced in the first stage of the tournament. We would like to say we dominated the first half. The boys had personality and good conditions and set the tempo of the game early on. We should have scored a couple goals. But, there are things we need to improve slowly. The chemistry within the group is very good.”
LAFC scored four against Seattle — the most the Sounders have conceded in the knockout round of a league or continental tournament since March 2012 — and easily could have scored more.
The Black and Gold have scored 15 goals in four games. Diego Rossi has put eight shots on goal in the MLS is Back tournament, seven have been goals.
Rossi is in the form of his life. If Orlando City wants to advance to the MLS is Back semifinals, the Lions will have to tame the Uruguayan forward and the rest of LAFC.