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LAFC 2018 Player Postmortem: Luis Lopez

Buba was a high-profile addition who didn’t see much time in the end.

MLS: Sporting KC at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Lopez looked like a shrewd signing by Los Angeles Football Club coming into their debut season. The Honduras international had impressed at the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup, and at the tender age of 24, he seemed like he could really settle in and become a building block for the expansion side.

But the reality didn’t quite go that way. Lopez, nicknamed “Buba,” entered the club in preseason seemingly in contention for the No. 1 slot at goalkeeper alongside another youngster, the less-tested Tyler Miller, but a leg injury sidelined Lopez to begin the season. The team announced in February that he had a stress fracture in his leg and was to be out four-to-six weeks. In the end, he was out more than five months, before being sent on a rehab loan assignment at Orange County SC, where he played a handful of games.

In the meantime, Miller emerged as the starter for the black-and-gold, and while he wasn’t perfect, he was solid and for being the untested one at top flight level among the pair, he didn’t play badly enough that he was removed for Lopez. The Honduran had to wait his turn, and in the end, he got one appearance for LAFC in 2018.

Lopez LAFC 2018 statistics

2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 1 1 90 3 2 2 0 0 60 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
MLS Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 1 1 90 3 2 2 0 0 60 0 0

The game Lopez played didn’t turn out to be a fun occasion for LAFC, as they lost 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City, the first time LAFC ever lost at home, in any competition. I don’t think you could say Lopez was at fault on either goal conceded — LAFC’s defense collapsed as a wily Sporting side threw numbers forward and connected well from the run of play on the first goal and then from the penalty spot for the second.

The definite highlight of Lopez’s 90 minutes with the black-and-gold was this series of Cruyff turns with Gerso Fernandes trying to get him to mess up.

It was hilarious, but also frightening, as LAFC couldn’t exactly afford to cough up embarrassing goals now and then, which would have happened if he tried this all the time.

So after the season, with Miller playing all but one game, LAFC unsurprisingly did not pick up the purchase option on Lopez’s loan. New reports in Honduras this week claim that LAFC didn’t end up paying for Lopez’s loan last year, because he was crocked, and also they want Buba back in 2019 because he’s healthy now, but they want him for free again.

I can’t say I quite buy that. If LAFC really wanted Lopez, then they would have played him, first of all, and then they would have bought out his loan. If they want to upgrade over Miller, fair enough, but if they aren’t certain Lopez would beat him out — he didn’t the first time around — then using an international slot on a backup goalkeeper is just about the worst use of resources imaginable. So, whisper, whisper, maybe Lopez will return to the black-and-gold, but I can’t believe this is a high-priority move for the club.

At the same time, it’s safe to say Lopez was unlucky in 2018. I think if he had been healthy all season, he very well could have become the starter, and he might have gotten on a run, and who knows what might have happened? Still just 25, Lopez has a bright future ahead of him, even if his season in Los Angeles didn’t go anything like it was expected to.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!