Culver City Observer -

By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

LAFC Advances to Quarterfinals vs Orlando

Eliminate Seattle in MLS is Back Tourney

 

LAFC

LAFC starting eleven vs. Seattle Sounders

The final score read LAFC 4, Seattle 1. It easily could have been 6-1 or perhaps 7-2. The Black and Gold erased most of the demons from last season's 3-1 MLS Playoff loss to the Sounders to advance to the Quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament near Orlando, Florida. LAFC will now tackle local-favored but underdog Orlando City SC this Friday, July 30 at 4:30 p.m. PDT.

Orlando City qualified for the Round of 16 by finishing first in Group A and then beat the Montreal Impact on a goal by Tesho Akindele to advance to the Quarterfinals against LAFC. Orlando's defense has been stingy, only conceding three goals in four tournament matches. Their offense has done just enough, scoring seven goals in those games.

We felt good about the way we played against Seattle. There are things we can build on as we just keep trying to improve," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. "Orlando has played very well in this tournament. They've made great progress as a team and we just look forward to a really good test."

LAFC's offense has continued to run up the numbers with 15 total goals in their four matches. Forward Diego Rossi has put away seven of those scores and is comfortably leading the Golden Boot chase for the tournament. Despite conceding only one goal to the Sounders, their defense has given up eight total goals in contrast.

"They're (Orlando) obviously a very good team," said defender Dejan Jakovic, who played the entire match against Seattle. "They've done well. They haven't conceded many goals. We're not really going to be changing that much. We'll continue to play our game but we'll take a look at where we can attack them and how we can go about beating them and moving on to the Semi's."

Bradley stated the team will start focusing on Orlando and its defense starting Thursday: "We can constantly work on how we can confront space, trying to find ways to move forward, getting guys on the move... When a team plays with double sixes some of those half-spaces change a little bit, but there's still an ability to move the ball quickly and then find openings as the other team starts to move.

For the first time in the tournament, LAFC scored the first goal of the match. It was a penalty kick from Diego Rossi in the 14th minute after he was taken down as he moved inside the 18-yard box. A deflected blast delivered by Latif Blessing in the 39th minute grabbed a 2-0 halftime lead.

"I think we need to win this game. So, just talked to our teammates, talked to everybody, we are going to win this game. I think last year when we played against Seattle, it's like a cat match. This time around it's like payback time," said Blessing.

Everybody told me: "Blessing, we need your energy. So I said to myself: "Tonight, I'm going to keep going." Everybody's looked after me and: "Hey, this guy's going." So, we keep going. I'm so happy for my performance tonight. I'm so happy."

Bradley: "We started in a real strong way, pushed the game. We created a lot of chances, which is something that we feel very good about. When we needed then to finish the game out, we kept going... I thought it was really a good effort. Kenneth made a big save at 2-1. That's a fantastic thing for the group."

Yet, despite Seattle having been outshot Seattle 22-5 thirty minutes into the second half, the defending MLS Champs threatened to shut the party down with a goal by substitute forward Will Bruin in the 75th minute. The Sounders actually had two very good chances to tie the game in the following minutes, one was denied on a fine save by goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.

However, Bradley and his staff successfully countered with two substitutions in the 80th minute as Francisco Ginella and Danny Musovski came in. Two minutes later Rossi put away the insurance goal to lead 3-1. Jordan Harvey entered the match in the 84th minute for defensive energy and support. Five minutes later Brian Rodriguez shut the door on Seattle with his second goal of the tournament.

LAFC

Diego Rossi - 7 Goals in 4 matches leads the tournament's Golden Boot race

Musovski, who assisted on Rossi's second goal: "Anytime you come off the bench your job is to provide a spark for the team. So, Bob called me to go around, I think, the 80th minute. That allowed us to bring high-energy, press high up the field. And then Diego played the ball into my feet, and I knew he was taking off, so I just tried to give him a layoff and he did well with it and played it into the back of the net.

Payback played a factor in LAFC's quest according to Musovski: "That was a big thing. I think we did try to treat it like any other game but basically the way last year ended, we did want a little bit of revenge... It was good to get those goals to kind of solidify that."

Bradley finished up: "We did a much better job of that tonight than we did in the playoff game last year. Last year we had a lot of possession against Seattle but we weren't enough of a threat throughout the game."

The winner of the LAFC – Orlando match will meet the San Jose – Minnesota winner in the Semifinals at 5:00 p.m. PDT on August 6. The MLS is Back Tournament will conclude with the Championship Match on Tuesday, August 11 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

 

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