Los Angeles Football Club entered the MLS is Back Tournament as favorites to win it all, but the team’s run in central Florida is over after losing a penalty shootout to Orlando City SC in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Los Angeles Football Club was moments away from a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Orlando, but a goal by former LAFC defender Joao Moutinho in the final moments of the match forced the teams into the shootout.
LAFC defender Jordan Harvey missed the team’s second attempt, and despite saving a penalty attempt from Orlando City’s Nani in the 57th minute, LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer failed to stop a single shot in the shootout that ended 5-4.
LAFC scored 11 goals in three group stage matches and added four in its first knockout stage game against Seattle, but it faltered against the Lions’ physical play and deep-sitting formation. Orlando neutralized LAFC’s attack by sitting deep in its own territory and allowing LAFC most of the field to work with, stifling its advances with tight defense in the final third.
“I think you could see from the start that physically, we weren’t at our best tonight. So it’s a lot of games in a short amount of time,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. “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.”
Orlando City’s efforts stymied LAFC’s prolific offense for the first hour of the match. Aside from a goal by Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 32nd minute waved off by the offside flag, LAFC didn’t register a single shot, on target or otherwise, until the 60th minute.
It was the first time in franchise history that LAFC was held without a shot through the first half.
Orlando’s success allowed it to create several chances on the other side of the field, but LAFC matched Orlando’s physicality in defense until the final moments of the match.
Orlando City’s Ruan earned a penalty against LAFC left back Diego Palacios in the 54th minute. After Nani’s attempt from the spot was saved by Vermeer, Bradley Wright-Phillips put LAFC on the board with a goal in the 60th minute.
“We obviously weren’t ourselves tonight,” said Wright-Phillips. “I thought it was just one of those games, there’s not much recovery time. I thought it was one of those games we had to get through and (wait for) our chance when we got them.
“We just didn’t do enough all around the field. We weren’t alert enough. Our reactions weren’t great. We still did enough to get a goal, and I think we’ve just got to see it out there.”
LAFC’s offense created more opportunities after the goal, but Orlando’s defense rebounded from the goal to keep LAFC from scoring further. The lone goal nearly stood as a game winner for LAFC before Moutinho, a member of LAFC’s inaugural season who was traded to Orlando City in exchange for left back Mohamed El-Munir after the 2018 season, forced the penalty kicks.
“Kenneth makes the save on Nani in regulation and then we score,” said Bradley. “We have a couple of advantages where if we are a little sharper, we can get the second goal, and then at the end, we just don’t defend the corner well. We allowed João to get in there more towards the back post. We left a space and didn’t attack the ball.”