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LAFC vs. Orlando City: Three Questions

How are the Lions looking before the quarterfinal?

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Orlando City SC
Pereyra (left) has been a key figure for Orlando City this year.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club will take on Orlando City SC in the MLS is Back Tournament quarterfinal round Friday evening in Orlando. To get ready for the next game, we talked to Ben Miller of SB Nation’s Orlando City blog The Mane Land to get a sense of what the situation is like from Orlando’s perspective. Many thanks to Ben for taking the time to answer my questions!

Angels on Parade asks The Mane Land:

1. How are things going under Oscar Pareja? Seems like it’s been a good start with him at Orlando City?

So far, so good under Pareja. This tournament perhaps isn’t the most accurate representation of any team’s true capabilities, but Orlando has shown plenty of signs that things are going in the right direction. The team looks more organized, calmer when playing possession-based soccer, and looks much more creative and dangerous offensively. There’s an argument that wins over struggling teams like Miami, NYCFC, and Montreal don’t mean too much given the form of those teams, but you can only beat who’s put in front of you and so far the Lions are doing a better job of that than last year.

2. Aside from Pareja, are there new players who are making an impact, or more the returning players stepping up this season?

There are a couple new faces who have been important to the team’s early success. Pedro Gallese was immense in the group stage win over NYCFC, and before picking up an injury in the draw against Philadelphia Junior Urso was a massive source of drive and energy in the midfield. Aside from the two of them the only new face who’s been a regular starter is Antonio Carlos in defense. Long story short, there are several new guys who have been important but its largely been done with the roster from last year. Chris Mueller and Nani have both been excellent but Mauricio Pereyra has been the difference maker that the team needed in the offensive third. He’s taken a lot of the creative pressure off Nani and his ability to pick out passes and his skill with the ball at his feet just makes the team more dangerous in the opposition’s half.

3. Orlando City aren’t actually hosting the tournament, but since it’s in their backyard they are almost playing at home. Do you think they have a hometown advantage in this tournament, and wouldn’t be on as good of a run if they were playing in, say, California? Since they’re in a bubble, is the hometown advantage mitigated quite a bit?

Honestly, I don’t put too much stock in the idea of the hometown advantage for this particular tournament. There’s no benefit of having the crowd on OCSC’s side, the team isn’t able to sleep in their own beds, and is subject to life in the bubble like the league. The one place where I do believe playing just outside of Orlando has some benefit is the weather. Much has been made of the heat and humidity in Florida this time of year and with good reason, its suffocating and extremely difficult to play in if you aren’t used to it. Hell, it’s still tough even when you are used to it. The fact that the Lions train in that weather every day certainly could benefit them compared to teams from farther north who might be used to slightly milder training conditions. I work as an Athletic Trainer here in central Florida and it really does take at least two weeks to acclimate to the heat down here, so I don’t think its a stretch to say that the Lions have at least a small edge in that department.

You can find my answers to Ben’s questions here.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.