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LAFC points to fatigue, lack of sharpness after MLS is Back elimination

It may have been accumulated fatigue. It may have been Orlando City’s fight. It may have been a combo of both.

Either way, LAFC is done at the MLS is Back Tournament without the trophy in tow.

LAFC was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the competition on Friday night, as the club fell to Orlando City on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw. The Western Conference side was minutes away from advancing, but a late goal from former LAFC defender Joao Moutinho brought the Lions level before Orlando City prevailed from the spot.

While LAFC will rue the inability to close the game out in regulation, both head coach Bob Bradley and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips acknowledged after the match that the performance put forth was not up to the club’s usual standard. They attributed part of that to a lack of overall quality on the day and part of it to Orlando City’s play.

They also pointed to tired legs.

“I think you could see from the start that physically we weren’t at our best tonight,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. “It’s a lot of games in a short amount of time. We spoke at halftime to see if we could raise the level a little bit. We did, but it certainly wasn’t our sharpest football night either.

“…You could see that tonight, especially in the first half; it’s rare for us to have a half where we don’t even get a shot. On that end, it was hard.”

Competing in its fifth match in 19 days and second in five, LAFC struggled on Friday to play in the manner the team is accustomed to. The typically high-flying club did not record a shot until the hour-mark, when Wright-Phillips pushed home the opener, and finished the night with less possession than Orlando City.

The Lions, who had two more days of rest, did do a solid job of making things tough on LAFC with an organized defense. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese also came up big multiple times late to keep Orlando City in the game.

Nonetheless, LAFC felt like it was lacking a bit of the usual intensity and dynamism from the run of play that has made the club one of the best teams in MLS over the past two years and change.

“We obviously weren’t ourselves tonight, but I thought it was just one of those games,” said Wright-Phillips, who finished the tournament with four goals. “There’s not much recovery time. I thought it was just one of those games we just had to get through and try to take our chances when we got them. We just didn’t do enough all around the field. We weren’t alert enough. Our reactions weren’t great.”

Wright-Phillips added that he thought LAFC would have won the game and made it to the semifinals had the team been sharper. Ultimately, LAFC was not and did not en route to losing by a 5-4 margin in the penalty shootout.

The club is now set to return home to Los Angeles, where it will await word as to how and when the MLS regular season resumes. LAFC is naturally looking forward to that, especially after such a disappointing finish to a tournament that the club hoped would end with a title.

“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to be at our best,” said Bradley.

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