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LAFC 2018 Player Postmortem: Omar Gaber

He was here, and then he was gone.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Montreal Impact Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Omar Gaber was the first of what some expected to be a pipeline of Egyptian players at Los Angeles Football Club, given the prior connections of LAFC manager Bob Bradley to the Egyptian National Team. That pipeline may come yet, but Gaber’s brief tenure was not necessarily a smashing success.

A TAM signing for LAFC, Gaber joined on loan from FC Basel, where he hadn’t found playing time and wanted to ahead of the 2018 World Cup. So it was a mutually beneficial arrangement, as LAFC were looking for talent for their expansion season and he was looking for minutes to be ready for the biggest event in Egyptian soccer in some time.

Gaber was a versatile player, capable of playing in defense as a right back, on the right side of midfield, or even as a defensive midfielder. Given the status of this player, the fact that he was in his prime, and the uncertainty about the style Bradley would play at LAFC, it seemed he would be a starter for the MLS side.

But Gaber was hurt or gone through much of his tenure with LAFC. After declaring at a media day with national media in January he would play anywhere Bradley wanted him to, but was likely to end up in a right-sided attacker role, he was hurt in training camp and missed the first four games.

Then he played in seven league games in a row, starting just twice and going the full 90 once, before he took off to join Egypt for the World Cup.

Gaber LAFC 2018 statistics

2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 7 2 254 0 0 2 0 1 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
MLS Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 7 2 254 0 0 2 0 1 0

Gaber’s high point probably came in the home opener, against the Seattle Sounders, when he started and provided a spirited shift as a wide forward. For a player who had been billed as a defender or defensive mid, to see him end up playing as a wide forward was a bit jarring, but he was not totally out of place.

The problem was, he never got into a rhythm. The lack of playing time means he really never settled. Injuries were bad luck, and no one begrudges him going to the World Cup, although in a heartbreaking turn he never even got to play as Egypt crashed out after the group stage.

And then, he was gone.

LAFC made quick work of moving Gaber on, picking up his purchase option from FC Basel, in order to then immediately sell him on to Egyptian club Pyramids FC in mid-July. Word emerged that Gaber wanted to return home and LAFC granted his request, while reportedly selling him for a cool $1 million. They wouldn’t get that full amount in money to flip into their roster, but likely got somewhere in the region of $750,000 allocation money to use (minus whatever they paid to Basel, of course).

In that way, Gaber’s sale provided both an example of LAFC listening to a wantaway player and finding a way for him to depart without it getting messy, and they got real cash money in the sale. Gaber had a good pedigree coming in, but given the little we saw of him on the field, would you have expected a $1 million transfer fee for him? I was surprised at that amount, and yet it was a mutually beneficial situation for all parties, something that was replicated with Laurent Ciman’s surprise sale late in the season.

Since returning to Egypt, Gaber has played 10 times and is reportedly the captain for Pyramids, who revamped their club and splashed the cash to try and break through in the Egyptian Premier League. The season runs fall to spring, so it’s still early in the campaign, but they are currently sitting in second place in the league table.

All in all, it seems like it has worked out for all parties. LAFC had a high-priced player who was struggling to find a regular rhythm, and who eventually wanted to depart, and they picked up some money in a good sale. He tried out life in MLS and Southern California, but it just didn’t work out, and he looks to have found a good situation back at home. Omar Gaber’s tenure with LAFC ended with a whimper, but there seems to be no hard feelings, and that’s rare to find in this sport.

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