Mid-Preseason Review: LAFC
There is no championship on the line during preseason but there are several objectives that look to be achieved.
LAFC is two weeks into training camp and head coach Bob Bradley has been doing his best to make it productive and beneficial. The first three games were filled with playerrotations, experimental formations and systematic in-game adjustments. Although the results are not as important as the team performance during preseason, LAFC managed to win two of the first three matches. Bradley has pointed out some positives during these early stages but emphasized there is room for improvement in certain areas.
With several players still trying to make the first team roster, Bradley has some decisions to make in finding the right piecesthat fit his system of play. Players are beginning to reach full-fitness levels, connect with their teammates on the pitch and absorb the ideas thattheir head coach is inculcating in their game.
So what have we learned from the first two weeks of preseason and what can we expect from the remaining three matches before the regular season begins? Based on my observations and analysis, here is what I have come up with…
What have we learned so far?
The goalkeeper position is all but secured with Tyler Miller as the starter. LAFC has not officially signed a backup for Miller but all signs point to 19 year-old Philip Ejimadu as the lead candidate for the reserve role. Ejimadu has come on as a substitute in all three matches.
Newly acquired defender Eddie Segura has shown potential in the center-back position and has surely impressed Bob Bradley. The Colombian has worked his way into the starting line-up and even went a full 90 minutes in the last match vs Columbus. With the absences of regular starters Steven Beitashour (recent newborn) and Walker Zimmerman (international duty) during the last two games, young defenders Shaft Brewer and Tristan Blackmon have stepped up and proven they are more than capable of playing in the backline for LAFC. Brewer filled in at right-back while Bradley is surely opting to train and keepBlackmon at center-back.
The center defensive midfield position currently has one owner and that is Eduard Atuesta. The 21-year old has provided balance in the midfield and I don’t believe that his place in the starting lineup is in jeopardy. With the pressure of being a Young Designated Player on his shoulders, Andre Horta has shown his critics that he is ready to assume the responsibility of good consistent play. The Portuguese has improved in every game during the preseason and even scored a goal in the first match along with one assist.
With all the transfer rumors finally put to bed, Carlos Vela has proved to be fully focused on LAFC and his performance in the preseason has been a reflection of it. Vela had a statement game vs Vissel Kobe with two world-class goals and the fans could not be any happier with their leader and idol. The Mexican has stated that his goal for the season is to help LAFC win MLS Cup and personally get the MLS Most Valuable Player award. That is the kind of mindset that you want from your captain.
As far as the players on trial, there have been three that have caught my attention: Javi Perez, Alejandro Guido and Peter-Lee Vassell. All three are midfielders that fit the style of play that Bob Bradley is looking to implement. Perez brings a balance to the team in the midfield but also creates opportunities up front for his teammates. Guido got a run with the starters in the last game vs Columbus and forced an own goal for his team to take the lead. Vassell has one goal, one assist during this preseason and has played with such confidence that would make you believe he has played in the league for years. If I were Bob, I would sign those three in an instant.
What to expect next?
With three games left to prepare for the start of the regular season, LAFC will most likely have their full roster available as they will be getting players back from injuries, international duty and immigration issues.
Walker Zimmerman and Christian Ramirez have joined the club in full fitness after spending the month of January with the USMNT. Ramirez proved to be in tip-top shape after going 60 minutes vs Columbus just two days after playing with the USMNT in San Jose. Mark-Anthony Kaye returned to the pitch after a 6-month absence due to his ankle injury and played 30 minutes vs Columbus. Bradley will ease him into the lineup as Kaye aims to get back to 100% for the March 3rd home opener vs Sporting KC. Returning defender Danilo Silva and newly acquired Mohammed El-Munir have also joined the team after their respective visas arrived. El-Munir got 45 minutes at the left-back position vs Columbus while Danilo has yet to participate in a match as he looks to get his fitness up to par with the rest of the team.
El Salvador forward Rodolfo Zelaya was recently signed to LAFC on a 2-year deal. The 30 year-old will begin to train with his new teammates for the first time this week as he looks to get some minutes in the game vs Atlanta and begin to show the coach that he deserves to be on the field.
LAFCs next opponent in the preseason is none other than the defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United. The match will be played at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday February 10th but it will be closed to the public. However, Heart of LAFC will be in the stadium bringing you the best coverage through Twitter.
Atlanta United kicked-off their preseason camp in Los Angeles with a 7-1 win over Seattle Sounders at Cal State Fullerton last Saturday. They will also play Tijuana from Liga MX and Carson Galaxy during their preseason tour.
The Black & Gold will round up their preseason training camp on February 23rd when they host Vancouver Whitecaps at Banc of California Stadium. That game will be open to Season Ticket members only. Before that match, LAFC will host San Jose Earthquakes on February 16th at Banc of California Stadium in a game that will also be closed to the public. For the last three matches, LAFC will most likely line up with their regular starters in attempt to get into season form. The starting XI has been getting 45 minutes in the first three matches but I expect that number to increase to 60 or even 90 minutes by the game vs Vancouver.
February 7, 2019
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📸 photo credit to @Robatchi on Instagram