LAFC (n) Match Recap
Orlando City comes back against tournament favorites LAFC to secure a place in the MLS is Back semifinals.
WHAT ON EARTH HAVE WE JUST WITNESSED? WE HAVE ACTUALLY JUST BEATEN LAFC. LIKE. WE WON. I DON'T CARE IF IT WAS IN PENALTIES, WE DESERVED TO WIN THAT GAME.
What an amazing night for us Orlando fans. OC Twitter was CRAZY after the match. The cockiness. The banter. The joy. The beautiful scenes of raw emotion. I loved every bit of it. I know it's only in a tournament to help kickstart the return to MLS, but Friday's win was arguably the most important in the club's MLS history. You could feel our culture changing before our very eyes in the way we dominated the first half. We weren't scared of the "best team in the league" and it showed. We kept LAFC to ZERO SHOTS. ZERO. And it wasn't because we sat in and bunkered. No. We played our style of play. What an amazing night. Let's dive into my three talking points.
1. Gallese saves the day
I'm gonna steal a bit that Adam (@koshertacotruck) does on the Lionsblog Podcast. I want everyone to say it with me. 1... 2... 3... Gavin. Was. Right. That wasn't so hard, was it? In the LAFC Preview, I said:
"Gallese is going to have to have another NYCFC-esque performance if we are going to get the dub."
That's exactly what he did. After Nani missed his penalty, we were mentally reeling and LAFC took advantage to go 1-0 up. The thing is, it easily could've been 2 or 3. Rossi got sent through shortly after their first goal and Gallese had to go full stretch to block the MLS is Back's top goalscorer from getting his eighth goal of the tournament. Then, El Pulpo denied the Uruguayan attacker again by making an impressive double save from point-blank range. Gallese completed his game-saving performance by getting a fingertip to Jordan Harvey's back-post shot. As good as the team was, we easily could've lost this game 3-0 if it weren't for our Peruvian goalkeeper.
2. We have the best defense in the league
Although the stats may not back up that statement, I believe it to be true. We just held the best attack in the league (average of 21 shots per game) to just 8 shots, their lowest total this season. We were also the first defense to hold LAFC to only one goal in this tournament. I personally don't believe that this was just a poor game from LAFC on offense. We forced them into mistakes with our pressing and LAFC struggled to form any sort of offense past our midfield. That was clearly seen in the first half when we stopped them from even taking a single shot in the first half for the first time in their history.
The only times LAFC looked dangerous in this game was when we missed our penalty and when we started pushing for the equalizer. The penalty miss clearly affected our mentality and we just lost the plot. LAFC took the momentum from the penalty miss and took advantage. After the water break, we collected ourselves and pushed for an equalizer. Obviously, when we are pushing bodies forward, we are going to be open on defense. But that was it. When the game was evenly matched, our defense was dominant.
It was yet another strong showing from our defense and it, in my opinion, cemented them as the best defense in the league. The MLS is not a league that is well-known for its defending, so I feel that that statement isn't too far of a reach. The only other defense that can compare is Real Salt Lake's. No wonder we tied 0-0 when we played them in the season opener back in late February.
3. Nani needs to up his game
This may be a hot take but I feel that Nani has had a poor tournament. I know he has 2 goals, 2 assists, and a clutch penalty. Trust me, I know. But that's all he's done. Other than those crucial contributions, his passing has been wayward (189/252, 75%) he's been making the wrong decisions (shooting instead of crossing, dribbling instead of passing), and he missed the penalty that almost cost us this game. I understand that he's being used in a newer role but the small parts of his game that should be there no matter what seem to have vacated him. As a team, we have been struggling in the final third and if we are going to win this thing, we need Nani to step up and improve his play in that part of the pitch.
Gallese - 9/10 MOTM
Ruan - 7/10
Carlos - 9/10
Jansson - 8/10
Moutinho - 8/10
Rosell - 8/10
Mendez - 8/10
Mueller - 6/10
Pereyra - 7/10
Nani - 4/10
Akindele - 6/10
Michel - 5/10
Dike - 4/10
Perea - 5/10
Patino - 5/10
If you liked what you read, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Please don't hesitate to let me know your thoughts on what I said. I really do enjoy having conversations with my fellow Orlando City fans about our team. That's why I started this blog/podcast in the first place.
'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando