​LAFC Preseason Begins!

Day 1 of 2019 preseason training camp for LAFC is in the books and yours truly was in attendance for the first time to witness the team practice along with interviews from some of the players. For their inaugural season, LAFC held their entire preseason camp at UCLA due to the Performance Center not being ready for use yet. This year, players reported to their own state-of-the-art training facility on Mondayto prepare for the start of the regular season.

The first part of the training was closed to the media as we were only allowed access for the last 15 minutes of practice. It was enough to see an 11v11 scrimmage that included returning players Steven Beitashour, Jordan Harvey,DejanJakovic,Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing and Andre Horta. The latter was being watched very closely by head coach Bob Bradley during training session. Bradley would encourage Horta after delivering a good pass but would get after him when the Portuguese youth international lost the ball. I will come back to this relationship later in the article as Bob was asked about Andre during a post-training interview.

As most of the players were showcasing their skills and trying to prove themselves to Bob that they should make the first team, there were five that appeared to have their spot safe: Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, AdamaDiomande, Lee Nguyen and Mark-Anthony Kaye. This group was seen jogging around the field, occasionally sprinting and stretching. One cannot argue that they are the core of the team and were most likely held out for the last part of training to prevent an injury on the first day of preseason.

Goalkeeper Tyler Miller, defender Walker Zimmerman and forward Christian Ramirez were not present with the Black & Gold as they are currently away on international duty with the U.S. National Team in their annual January training camp. Miller did not make the final roster and will return to LAFC this week and join his teammates. Zimmerman and Ramirez did make the 23-man final roster and will stay with the USMNT until February 2nd.

There is a list of players that are returnees but did not get much playing time on the first team last season. The list includes: Tristan Blackmon, Shaft Brewer Jr. and Josh Perez. All three were loaned out at some point during the inaugural season in order to get minutes on the field and gain experience. Blackmon is slightly ahead of the other two on the depth chart for Bob as he would be the immediate replacement for Beitashour. As for Brewer Jr. and Perez, the competition is much more difficult in their respective positions.

New signing Eddie Segura was seen training for LAFC with the No. 4 jersey on his back. The young Colombian will compete for the starting spot in the backline directly with Danilo Silva. Speaking of Silva, the Brazilian was absent during the first day of training pending his P1 Visa. The other new addition to the club is defender Mohammed El-Munir (will wear No. 13), who is dealing with the same situation Silva is and was also forced to miss the first day of preseason camp.

The class of 2019 draft picks was also seen on the pitch for the first time with the team. Peter-Lee Vassell, Javi Perez and Kevin Mendoza got to see what it’s like to practice under Bob Bradley. Perez and Mendoza both have experience playing at the college level in the United States while Vassell is only 20 years old and has no experience playing in America. However, the Jamaican international does have 8 caps for the national team that include 5 goals already. The “kid” has a way about him that shows confidence and fearlessness. LAFC found a gem and hopefully he is able to make the first team.

As for the rest of the guys in training camp (majority come from USL clubs) trying to pencil their name on the final roster, there is one name that caught my attention. Former Carson Galaxy midfielder Baggio Husidic is currently on a one-week trial with the team and will be looking to sign for LAFC next week if he is able to impress Bob Bradley. Although he is a former rival, I don’t see his potential addition all that bad. He brings vast experience playing in MLS, can play various positions in the midfield and he would not take up an international slot. At 31 years old, Husidic still has plenty to give and would be an excellent roster depth acquisition for LAFC.

Once the scrimmage concluded, it was time for some of the players to attend the media and answer some questions. The summoned ones were in this order: Mark-Anthony Kaye, Lee Nguyen, Bob Bradley and Eduard Atuesta. Carlos Vela was supposed to be part of this group but decided to reschedule his appearance for another day after making the media wait 45 minutes (no reason was given other than he “is unavailable”). Each player was available for ten minutes before the next one had their turn.

On a good note, Mark-Anthony Kaye did mention that he “needs 1 more month” until he is fully recovered from the left ankle fracture. This is great news for LAFC as it means that Kaye will be at 100% for the home opener vs Sporting KC on March 3rd.  Kaye also mentioned how important the fans were in his recovery with all of the support and messages he received via social media. The talented midfielder will look to continue where he left off last season before his unfortunate injury.

Lee Nguyen was another player that answered a few questions for the media. When asked if the team felt like they have unfinished business to take care of after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season, he answered, “Yes, absolutely. The game was unfortunate and unlucky. Sometimes you need a bit of luck but I feel like we did well. We can’t wait to get back on the field and fix things.” Nguyen is now the veteran midfielder on the team and LAFC will need his leadership and experience to give that midfield a smooth transition from defense to offense and vice-versa.

Head coach Bob Bradley was asked about Andre Horta and his performance with the club so far. Bradley stated, “He did not find the right way to adjust. He was anxious and was not able to pick up on the little things in order to improve his game. He could not keep up with the competition and I told him that he never really got it going. However, I still think he is a young talented midfielder and we will try to help him improve”. Hortawill have the most pressure on the club to perform well on the field this upcoming season. Why? LAFC paid a fortune for him, he is a DP and he has so much potential to become a great player. It will be a make-or-break season for the Portuguese.

The last player to be interviewed was Eduard Atuesta as he answered all of his questions in Spanish. One of the questions he was asked was if he thought he would get more playing time now that Benny Feilhaber is gone in which he said this, “We do not play the same position. Benny is more of an offensive midfielder as to where I am a central defensive mid. I was able to play the whole season and when healthy, I got minutes on the field. I had a great understanding on the pitch with all of the other midfielders and will look to continue to be a starter for the team”.

In other news, the full 2019 preseason schedule was also released on Monday and it includes six matches, with five of them being in Los Angeles at Banc of California Stadium. The only game that is not at the Banc is the first preseason friendly vs Toronto, which is set to be played at UC Irvine on January 27th. The rest of the games will be played against other MLS clubs (Columbus, Atlanta, San Jose and Vancouver) and will be closed to the public with the exception of the international friendly between LAFC and Vissel Kobe on January 31st. The final game of the preseason vs Vancouver will only be available to season ticket members on February 23rd, one week before the regular season begins.

All in all it was a great experience to be part of the first day of preseason with LAFC and I look forward to many more training sessions and games to cover for you guys. The PR staff was very welcoming and friendly to all the reporters as well as being respectful in letting us do our job. Being able to see training facility in person was amazing as it truly is beautiful. Preseason is underway and that just means we are getting closer to the start of the regular season. Stay tuned for more article and information from yours truly as I am going all in this year.

-Benjamin Virgen

January 24, 2019

Follow me on Twitter @lafcbenjamin to talk soccer, ask questions or send comments. Thank you for reading and Stay Golden!

Jerry JimenezComment