Roster Depth: LAFC 2019 Season
The 2019 MLS season for LAFC kicks off in 6 weeks, but preseason camp starts in just a few days (January 21st). Those six weeks will give the coaching staff enough time to determine which players will be on the first-team roster in March. GM John Thorrington has opted for continuity by keeping the core of the team from last season intact. With very few new faces in the offseason, LAFC will look to build and improve on last season’s performance.
Roster depth in the new and condensed MLS schedule will be a point of emphasis due to all the external factors that can change the course of a season. Based on the current LAFC roster, I have composed a depth chart of the team and how each player will play an important role in the success of the Black & Gold.
Goalkeepers: Tyler Miller
-Miller is entering the biggest season of his career for a couple of reasons. First, he wants to prove that he can be reliable andmaintain top-level play for LAFC. If he achieves that, he will earn the trust from his teammates and a possible spot in the 2019 Gold Cup with the USMNT. Second, he will be looking to sign a contract-extension with LAFC as his deal expires at the end of the season by putting up strong performances.
Defenders: Jordan Harvey, Steven Beitashour, DejanJakovic, Danilo Silva, Mohamed El-Monir, Walker Zimmerman, Tristan Blackmon and Eddie Segura.
-Mohamed El-Monir was acquired via trade during the offseason to rejuvenate the left-back position. Although reliable and experienced, Jordan Harvey is an aging veteran at 35 years old. He will most likely serve as an insurance policy for the younger El-Munir, who is at the peak of his career. The 26-year old left back will add versatility in attack down the wing with dangerous crosses and overlaps but Bradley will also require him to defend and become a two-way player.
-Steven Beitashour was resigned for a second season due to his dependability and consistency in defense for LAFC. If healthy, the experienced right-back will continue to be the starter with Tristan Blackmon waiting in reserve. Blackmon may be a possibility at CB in the future after his good loan spell with USL side Phoenix Rising last season.
-Four center-backs were signed for the 2019 season: veterans DejanJakovic and Danilo Silva, young but experienced Eddie Segura and one of the top American defenders in Walker Zimmerman. Silva and Zimmerman will likely begin the season as the starters whileJakovic and Segura wait their turn.
-Zimmerman is in the prime of his career and a scoring threat on set pieces (especially corner kicks) due to his height. He just signed a 4-year contract (finally!) with LAFC and is looking to consolidate himself with the USMNT to earn a spot in the Gold Cup roster. Silva and Jakovic add leadership and experience in defense while Segura is on a 6-month loan in which he will learn plenty from the veterans. Segura is no stranger to being a leader as he captained his club in Colombia last season. Don’ let his short stature fool you at 5’10. ( Cannavaro was 5’9).
Midfielders: Andre Horta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Josh Perez, Eduard Atuesta and Lee Nguyen
-After the departure of Benny Feilhaber, it is safe to say that LAFC are all-in on Andre Horta. With a full preseason, Hortalooks to improve his play from last season and show the club that he is ready become a starter and fulfill his potential.
-In the words of Bob Bradley, “Eduard Atuesta is the defensive-mid for LAFC”. We do not know if Atuesta will be in the starting midfield with the return of Mark-Anthony Kaye from injury but it is very likely. Bradley might want to ease Kaye into the starting XI over time to avoid any setbacks to his left ankle.If fully healthy, Kaye’s versatility and composure might be the difference maker for LAFC to become a title contender. Keep in mind that Kaye will also be trying to impress his national team coach so he can earn a spot in the 2019 Gold Cup roster for Canada.
-Lee Nguyen is a creative offensive-minded midfielder that has adapted to Bradley’s style and learned to play defense as well. He will be very important for LAFC as he brings experience and balance to a relatively young midfield. The veteran will get his minutes in the 2019 campaign.
-Josh Perez is a project player for the future that needs to impress Bob during preseason camp in order to obtain a roster spot. He is still very young and might see minutes in the midfield as much as Aaron Kovar did last season. His highest chances of playing might be in the early stages of the U.S. Open Cup.
Forwards: Latif Blessing, Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Christian Ramirez, Shaft Brewer Jr. and AdamaDiomande
-Latif Blessing is a very energetic, hard-working and speedy attacking winger that plays very well as a starter and off the bench. His ability to score and assist will attract defenders and leave spaces open for others. A true team player and a fan favorite is what Latif is all about.
-Diego Rossi was the club’s top scorer in all competitions last season and will look to build on that this year. Not only is he a scorer, but he can also set up his teammates in front of goal. This will be a consolidation season for Rossi, who has the potential to be a star.
-Carlos Vela is LAFC’s best player and current team captain. He was selected into the MLS All-Star Game and MLS Best XI last season. There is still a question on whether he will be called-up by Mexico for the 2019 God Cup but it remains a possibility. Vela needs to maintain if not improve the high level of play from last season if he wants to win MLS Cup with LAFC. Vela is the motor of the team, the brains if you will. When he is feeling it, there is no stopping LAFC.
-Christian Ramirez is a really good finisher with good movement in the box that will get a full preseason with LAFC. With good performances during the MLS season, he might get a call to join the USMNT in the 2019 Gold Cup. Ramirez will be fighting for the striker position with AdamaDiomande.
-Having a good relationship with Bob helps but AdamaDiomande will need to earn the center-forward starting spot by doing what he does best: score goals. Dio is a physical forward that is difficult to defend but needs to build a better chemistry with Vela. If he and Vela begin to click, watch out MLS.
-Shaft Brewer Jr. is a youth prospect and LAFC project for the future. The 19-year old attacking winger does not look like he will be getting much minutes this season unless it is in the early stages of the Open Cup. However, he adds depth to the roster that needs as many bodies as they can get.
2019 MLS SuperDraft picks Peter Lee-Vassell, Javi Perez and Kevin Mendoza will all need to prove to Bob during preseason training camp that they are worthy of making the team roster. All three are midfielders,a position LAFC are thin at. However, all three are international players that may be sent out on loan until more international slots are available. In addition, forward Ricky Lopez-Espin will also join the team in preseason training camp with the desire to make the team. The 23-year old was selected in the 2019 MLS Waiver Draft with the 15th overall pick.
While there will likely be several changes to the roster between now and March, these players will make up the majority of the final roster for the 2019 MLS season. The core of the team from last season returned and the new additions appear to be upgrades. Continuity in soccer is rare nowadays with the business side of soccer given priority. GM John Thorrington has valued the work of Bob Bradley and what he has built with the cub so far.Sha la lalalalalaaaa, L-A-F-C!
January 19, 2019
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