After defeating Montreal Impact 1-0 in their last sixteen game last Friday night, Orlando City SC booked their place in the quarter-finals knowing they would face either Seattle Sounders or LAFC. The Black and Gold ran out comfortable winners in the end, 4-1 on the night - even though it could have been far worse for the Sounders.
This match-up sees the most potent attack - LAFC - against the meanest defence - Orlando. One of these has to give - so entertainment should be in high abundance when the game kicks off Friday night.
For Orlando, the only player that will definitely play no part in the quarter final is Dom Dwyer. He is out with a knee injury for the rest of the MLS is Back Tournament. Oscar Pareja's side have no other concerns, apart from midfielder Junior Urso, who could be unavailable with a muscle problem.
LAFC will be pretty much as they were for the game against Seattle. Adama Diomande is out with a foot injury, and Carlos Vela is unavailable for the tournament. Andy Najar is the only injury doubt. Bob Bradley's side have been free-scoring in the tournament so far, netting 15 goals in only four games.
Predicted Starting XI
Orlando City: (4-2-3-1) Gallese; Moutinho, Jansson, Carlos, Ruan; Mendez, Rosell; Nani, Pereyra, Mueller; Akindele.
LAFC: (4-3-3) Vermeer; Palacios, Segura, Jakovic, Blackmon; Atuesta, Blessing, Kaye; Rossi, Wright-Phillips, Rodriguez.
Both side's form in this tournament has been good, which is why they are competing for a spot in the semi-finals. Orlando have won three and drawn one of their games so far in the tournament - Philadelphia Union were the only team to stop them winning, drawing 1-1 in the final group stage game. They beat State rivals Inter Miami and NYCFC in the group stages, before dumping out Montreal at the last sixteen stage. They've scored seven goals and conceded 3; so whilst their defense is tight, their attack is not as potent as other sides still in the tournament.
LAFC are one of those sides with a potent attack. Diego Rossi has seven goals to his name alone, meaning one LAFC player has scored the same goals this tournament as the entire Orlando City side. The Black and Gold defense, though, has been breached far more than City's. They have conceded eight goals; showing that they may be incredible going forward, but they can be got at and are vulnerable at the back on occasion. Houston Dynamo proved this in the first group game. They pressed high and didn't allow LAFC to have time on the ball. Houston tired in the second half from the press, but they are the team that did the best job in playing LAFC at their own game and being dangerous on the counter.
Orlando Head coach Oscar Pareja is well aware of the quality of LAFC, speaking to the press before the game about his approach to the game.
“LAFC obviously have a process that has a couple of years already and players who have been brought in to do that, knowing the investment and all those things and we respect that. But at the same time, we have confidence in what we do.
"We understand the challenge, every team has a different one. In this case with LA, they obviously have very good numbers offensively that we would like to neutralize. We’d like to have our ways too to hurt them, but we’re aware, and the confidence from Pedro [Gallese] to our forwards is the same, trying to be solid and trying to play our game.”
LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley also spoke to the press ahead of the quarter final, reflecting on his side's performance so far as well as his game plan for the upcoming clash.
“We had three good games in the group. There were a lot of areas where we could still look to improve. Against Seattle, we started very well, picked the tempo up and really pushed the game. It was a strong effort and hopefully we can build on that as we prepare for Orlando.”
“When a team plays with double sixes like Orlando, some of those half spaces change a little bit,” Bradley said. “But there is still an ability to move the ball quickly and find openings as the other team starts to move. We constantly work on how we can find space, trying to find ways to move forward, getting guys on the move. We have done that well throughout all the games. The way our wide attackers come inside, and then get forward. We’ll continue working on that.”