Orlando City-Los Angeles FC Preview
At the halfway point of the MLS season, the expansion Los Angeles Football Club continues to show it’s one of the league’s top teams while Orlando City looks to another voice in an attempt to turn things around.
LAFC will try to extend two streaks and hand the Lions their ninth straight league loss in coach James O’Connor’s debut as Orlando coach on Saturday in Los Angeles.
LAFC (9-4-4) hopes to rebound from a disheartening 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday.
Emerging star Adama Diomande assisted on goals by Latif Blessing and Mark-Anthony Kaye as LAFC’s Tyler Miller appeared headed toward his sixth clean sheet. However, Houston responded with goals from Mauro Manotas and Philippe Senderos in stoppage time.
“A lot of good efforts, but we got sloppy and a little bit careless at the end and paid for it,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said, adding that “those are lessons we can learn from.”
Regardless of the late collapse, Bradley’s side is 3-0-1 in its last four MLS matches and unbeaten (4-0-3) at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC is third in the Western Conference, one point behind Sporting Kansas City and four points in back of first-place FC Dallas.
“We’re a good team. We believe in the way we play football,” Bradley said.
Diomande had a hat trick in his last home game to lift LAFC to a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union last Saturday. Four of Diomande’s seven goals have come at home.
LAFC is getting a Lions squad that hasn’t won an MLS match since May 6.
O’Connor becomes the third head coach this season for Orlando (6-10-1). Jason Kreis was let go on June 15 after the club’s sixth consecutive loss. The Lions then dropped two in a row under interim coach Bobby Murphy.
Despite the team being outscored 23-5 during the losing streak — including three straight shutouts after last Saturday’s 4-0 setback to Atlanta United — O’Connor is excited.
“The biggest thing for me is developing a relationship,” he said during Monday’s introductory press conference. “The players are going to pass judgments on any new coach that comes in. You have to earn their trust and earn their respect. But I think equally there is a determination of the players to go and enjoy football again and get back to winning ways.
“It’s more about making sure we are moving together and we get what we all want, which is to start winning games.”
Dom Dwyer leads the Lions with seven goals. However, he has scored only two since April 21 and has just two on the road in 2018. The forward was a teammate of O’Connor’s with Orlando of the USL earlier this decade.
“He was basically a player-coach then,” Dwyer told the team’s official website. “I think he knows what this club is about. … He’s passionate, and I think he’ll be a great addition for us.”
Orlando is in ninth place in the East but only four points behind the Chicago Fire for the sixth and final playoff spot.