Orlando City are proud of their defensive efforts en route to the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament in their hometown, but the Lions face their biggest challenge in stopping scoring machine Diego Rossi and Los Angeles FC on Friday.
LAFC came into the event without 2019 league MVP Carlos Vela, who is home with his pregnant wife, but Rossi has been outstanding, with seven goals and two assists in four tournament matches prior to playing a stingy Orlando defense.
He scored twice in a dominant 4-1 victory over the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders on Monday.
"Diego's a stud," LAFC defender Dejan Jakovic said. "He's been an absolute baller for us."
Rossi, a 22-year-old striker from Uruguay, has been overshadowed by Vela but has 34 goals in 71 regular-season games over two-plus seasons.
"Diego has improved every year," LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. "He's been a good player from the start. He's worked hard on his finishing. You see the improvement there."
Orlando City has allowed three goals in the tournament and conceded just one shot on goal in a 1-0 win vs. the Montreal Impact on Saturday.
"It just shows a strong mentality, it shows good organization from the team and it just shows dedication to the cause from the front to the back," Lions forward Tesho Akindele said. "It starts with the forwards, to the midfielders, to the defenders, the goalie, everybody is bought in and focused in those last few minutes (of the match), which is something we might have been missing last year and we have it right now."
LAFC has scored 15 goals in the four matches at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex but has given up eight. Orlando hopes to exploit the defense even though forward Dom Dwyer was injured early in the tournament and remains sidelined due to a left knee ailment.
The winner advances to an Aug. 6 semifinal vs. the winner of the Saturday quarterfinal matchup of the San Jose Earthquakes and Minnesota United.
--Field Level Media