Los Angeles Football Club revealed their roster moves to kick off the offseason on Tuesday, a key window into the team’s thinking on their roster for their second season.
While it’s important to say off the top that a few of the players who are either out of contract or whose contract options or loan options were declined could return for the black-and-gold, outside of the out-of-contract guys don’t expect many to come back.
You can find the full rundown over here, but here are three observations from the decisions LAFC made:
Miller > Lopez
I think some folks were hoping Luis Lopez would get another chance in 2019. The Honduran international had a good Gold Cup prior to being signed by LAFC, but being hurt half the season robbed him of the momentum to win the No. 1 mantle for the expansion club.
And while many fans have complained about Tyler Miller’s shakiness at times as LAFC starting goalkeeper, his campaign, the first where he started major minutes at MLS level, showed his baseline is to be a dependable goalkeeper in this league. He played a major role in delivering a result for LAFC in a handful of games during the season, and given the risky, front-foot soccer played in front of him, he saw a lot of chances. If Bob Bradley had played a much more defensive style, Miller’s numbers would have been substantially better.
But back to Lopez. If LAFC were content with Miller, then Lopez’s spot on the roster was untenable. With a finite number of international slots, using one on a backup GK is a terrible allocation of resources, especially on a team as eager to sign international players as LAFC. In that case, the writing was on the wall for Buba.
Another interesting note is that the other backup goalkeepers, Charlie Lyon and Quillan Roberts, look to be out as well. We never saw those guys play in a competitive game for LAFC, and it’s not unusual for backups to move on after seasons, but it is a bit unusual to see all the backups move on in an offseason when the same coach is in place.
New-look center backs in 2019
LAFC never had many center backs, carrying three true CBs nearly the entire way, with only a brief overlap for Laurent Ciman and Danilo Silva. Silva’s loan option was not picked up, and LAFC’s language seems to indicate he’s probably not coming back, a bit surprising except for how much Bradley ripped into Silva in his postgame press conference after the playoff loss to Real Salt Lake. Considering Bradley was loathe to specifically blame players publicly after games, or spin mistakes into how they would learn to make the right plays, he seemed fed up with Silva and that may have been the final straw.
Of course, Ciman is long gone, and Dejan Jakovic’s contract option wasn’t picked up. That’s not a big surprise either, because although Jakovic played in general way better than expected, his ceiling is low and his age means he most likely won’t be getting better.
The x-factor is Walker Zimmerman, who is out of contract and wants to get paid. LAFC offered him a TAM deal that MLS previously rejected. They have given him a “bona fide offer” which means he either has to take the deal or sign abroad. If he goes abroad, LAFC keep his MLS rights, but given his spot as the anchor of the club’s defense, projected to be there for years to come, losing him would be a big blow.
Right now, LAFC have one true center back under contract, in new loanee Eddie Segura. One figures the team will be hoping for Zimmerman to return, that’s probably Plan A, and they need to be developing Plan B if he does not.
From there, they need at least one more CB, if they want to roll the dice like they did in 2018 with a very small group of central defenders, and more likely two to three more to really build out the depth. All in all, this part of the field will look quite a bit different in 2019.
Given his chemistry with his teammates to start the season, it might come as a surprise to see Marco Ureña’s contract option not picked up. He played very well with Carlos Vela in particular, he was unselfish, and he did great two-way work as a central striker in a very fluid attacking set-up.
Ureña’s issue was that he did not score. He tallied just two goals the whole way, one in league play and one in the U.S. Open Cup, and struggled badly to finish chances the entire season. Personally, I set his over/under on goals for the year at 5, so I wasn’t expecting a lot in that department for him, but he got nowhere close to it.
And while that chemistry is worth something, given the choice between an unselfish striker who can’t score and scorers who need to work on their on-field chemistry with their teammates, like Adama Diomande and Christian Ramirez, the decision is pretty simple. Ureña getting little playing time the final months of the season while Bradley gave Diomande and Vela plenty of run together, even when they were like chalk and cheese, sealed the Costa Rican’s fate. He had a good run, he may get a chance with another MLS team, but his time at LAFC seems to be at a natural end.
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