Los Angeles Football Club were the favorites to win the MLS is Back Tournament heading in, but they could only make it to the quarterfinals before being knocked out in agonizing fashion Friday, conceding late and losing in a penalty shootout to Orlando City SC.
Head coach Bob Bradley was shown on the field muttering expletives under his breath immediately after the shootout, which came after former LAFC player Joao Moutinho leaped over his fellow left back Jordan Harvey to head in a corner kick in the 90th minute to tie up the game. That goal meant Bradley Wright-Phillips’ 60th-minute tally would not be the winner on the night for LAFC.
So what happened? LAFC admitted they were feeling the effects of short rest and games piling up on their bodies.
“We obviously wasn’t ourselves tonight,” Wright-Phillips told reporters on a conference call after the game. “I thought it was one of those games, you know? There was not much recovery time, so I thought it was one of those games we just had to try and get through and take our chances when we caught them. We just didn’t do enough around the field, we weren’t alert, our reactions wasn’t great. We still done enough to get a goal, and I think we just got to see it out here.”
Bradley agreed with the striker.
“I think you could see from the start that physically we weren’t at our best tonight,” he said. “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.”
Even though the game was largely played on Orlando’s terms, it looked like LAFC would be able to squeak out a win and get nearly a week off before the semifinal round, with Kenneth Vermeer saving a 55th-minute penalty on Orlando star Nani, before Wright-Phillips’ goal gave LAFC the lead.
But the final 15 minutes of the game were nearly all Orlando City, with Oscar Pareja’s group putting LAFC under immense pressure, and getting their reward in the end.
“You still give the other team credit that they make it hard, they play certain balls forward toward [Tesho] Akindele,” Bradley explained. “They’ve got some ideas on how to build out of the back. I think [Mauricio] Pereyra’s a good player. Look, they are making progress as a team but it’s not easy for me to assess the other team on a night where I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to be at our best. It’s not something that’s easy to give a good answer to.”
Bradley also said LAFC just didn’t do what they needed to in order to win, and Wright-Phillips agreed.
“I really think every player wasn’t as sharp as he can be and it showed definitely in the first half and it’s the reason we don’t get the result we want. I think if we’re sharp we win that game,” said BWP.
Now what? According to the coach, the plan is still being ironed out, but they will be coming back to Los Angeles.
“We’ve heard different possibilities but we’re not clear [on the next step for MLS],” Bradley said. “Go back [home] and I know we have to have a testing program that continues to make sure we can get guys recovered. The time here, our players have handled extremely well. I feel good about the way we went on the field and tried to play our football every match. We’ll take the disappointment and try to look at everything and see what comes next and be ready.”
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