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Breaking down LAFC’s center back situation

After announcing their offseason roster moves, LAFC have some work to do in their back line.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Los Angeles Football Club announced their roster moves after the MLS deadline, not much came as a surprise. The club exercised options on players you would expect, being Tyler Miller, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Lee Nguyen, Josh Perez, and Shaft Brewer, Jr.

LAFC also declined options on players that were not surprising: Charlie Lyon, Quillan Roberts, Nicolas Czornomaz, Calum Mallace, James Murphy, Steeve Saint-Duc and Marco Ureña.

What was surprising was the players that were out of contract and, presumably, some or all will not be returning to the club. Jordan Harvey, Benny Feilhaber, and Dejan Jakovic ran out of contract, as well as Walker Zimmerman. Zimmerman, however, was offered a contract by LAFC, meaning they will retain him MLS rights and that he could come back. In addition, Luis Lopez, Aaron Kovar, and Danilo Silva will return to their respective clubs from loan.

This means that LAFC currently has 16 players on roster:

  • Goalkeeper: Tyler Miller
  • Defenders: Steven Beitashour, Tristan Blackmon, Joao Moutinho, Eddie Segura
  • Midfielders: Eduard Atuesta, Andre Horta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Lee Nguyen, Josh Perez
  • Forwards: Latif Blessing, Shaft Brewer, Jr., Adama Diomande, Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela

I’d like to draw your attention to the group of defenders currently on the roster for LAFC after the offseason decisions were made. The team currently has just four. One of them is Steven Beitashour, the starting right back. One is Tristan Blackmon, the third overall pick in the 2018 MLS Superdraft who was loaned out to Phoenix Rising after playing in 10 games for LAFC, and whose first position is fullback. The next is Joao Moutinho, the first overall pick in the 2018 Superdraft who played in 14 matches for the club, mostly early in the season, and who had his share of struggles at full back. The last is Eddie Segura, who was acquired in late November on a six-month loan with option to buy from Atletico Huila, which he captained and played in every match for.

There are currently one-to-two center backs on the roster (if you count Moutinho as one). This is also with the knowledge that Zimmerman, although LAFC will at the very least retain his MLS rights and offered him a contract, could go elsewhere as he is currently out of contract and has interest from Oscar Pareja and Club Tijuana.

LAFC was able to have a stable pairing in the back line for most of the season, despite having a bit of turnover. Laurent Ciman started as the anchor in the center, and as the club’s first captain. He started alongside Jakovic. Once Zimmerman was healthy, he paired up with Ciman to form a very aggressive but solid back line.

Ciman then left to go to France, and was essentially replaced with the arrival of Danilo Silva. Silva and Jakovic rotated being partners for Zimmerman in front of Tyler Miller.

Now, Jakovic is out of contract. Silva is returning to Internacional from loan. Zimmerman is also out of contract and could go to Mexico, or he could come back. This leaves LAFC in a sub-optimal scenario.

Moutinho still has some work to do to be a starting center-back in MLS. We have not seen Segura play an MLS game in his career, and he is also just 21. This means that LAFC has a major hole in the squad, in the same place that started to become an issue in LAFC’s season.

LAFC may be set for forwards, with plenty of firepower between Vela, Rossi, Diomande, and Blessing. The midfield has Kaye, Nguyen, Atuesta, and Horta. But once you get behind the midfield, the Black-and-Gold have some things to figure out in the defensive third. If Zimmerman returns, it is far less of a concern, but with his future up in the air, LAFC are looking at potentially starting all over with three out of four of their defensive starters, with just Beitashour remaining.

It’s not necessarily a doom and gloom scenario. Bob Bradley most likely has an idea of what he wants this team to be defensively, and definitely has some sort of offseason plan in terms of who he wants to add. Bradley and the club have been on the same page so far, and I’m sure this is no exception. However, LAFC’s main concern, and what cost them points and a game in the playoffs last season, was defense. The fact that almost all of the defenders who were starters for LAFC could now be gone means that the club has to replace all of them, while having no Designated Player spots to spare. That could be a curse, or a blessing in disguise.

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