Orlando City may be playing its toughest opponent yet in the MLS is Back Tournament, but Oscar Pareja is hopeful his Lions will prove to be the superior side heading into Friday’s quarterfinal matchup against Los Angeles FC.
The Lions will be the underdog against the tournament favorites from Los Angeles, but Pareja still wants his team to be on the attack when the sides meet on Friday.
“We hope to have control in the match, which is something we always want to have, and the type of control we want to install at Orlando City,” Pareja said. “At the same time, we have an opponent that has a strong team, that is dynamic, fast and puts a lot of people in the attack. We’re going to compete against that, with our squad, and also adjusting some things tactically.”
Going into Friday’s matchup at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the Lions dominated possession in three out of their last four games, but will be facing the most dangerous attack in the league, even without reigning MLS MVP Carlos Vela.
While Pareja said he hopes his side take full control against LAFC, another point of focus for Orlando falls on finishing scoring chances, especially against a team that led the group stage with 11 goals — 15 in total so far — behind Diego Rossi’s tournament-high seven goals.
“Facing LAFC is not familiar, in these instances, we have to have a lot of belief in what we have and who we are,” said Pareja. “We’re a team that’s rising, but we also have confidence in what we do with our players.”
Orlando will be without forward Dom Dwyer, who left the MLS bubble to obtain an MRI on his left knee. The status of midfielder Junior Urso remains unclear, but Pareja said on Wednesday that the Brazilian has returned to training this week.
The Lions have, however, produced double-digit shots in each of their last four games in MLS’s return-to-play tournament, but that’s nowhere near the numbers LAFC has produced.
Pareja is hoping his side can be clinical this time around.
“On taking and finishing our chances, it’s a goal that we have because the creation of opportunities in previous games has been high, the volume of play has been very well,” he said. “We have to face this with the same responsibility as the other games, with the same concentration and maintain the identity that we have.”
On the other hand, there’s also the possibility of Friday’s game going straight to penalties if the match ends in a draw after 90 minutes.
“We don’t want to get there to the penalties, we want to try to finish it before we can,” said midfielder Uri Rosell. “Definitely there’s a high possibility because there’s no extra time and when you finish in a tie, you go straight to the penalties. We [have] practiced some of those penalties just in case if we are in that position but in the end, when you go to penalties, anything can happen. It can go to one side or the other.”