clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

LAFC 2018 Player Postmortem: Andre Horta

Potential star of the future has plenty to prove after debut run in MLS.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Sporting KC William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Horta was perhaps destined to have a tough time finding his place on Los Angeles Football Club’s squad. After a protracted transfer saga, in which LAFC wanted the Portuguese youngster to arrive before the primary transfer window closed in May, only for Braga, the team he was on loan to, to balk and demand he complete his loan stint before selling club Benfica sent him on his way, he was eligible to play once the secondary transfer window opened in July.

A Designated Player, LAFC had hit home runs with their other two, Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi. In Portugal, Horta was a rising star, someone expected to become not just a big-time player in his native country, but to perhaps jump to one of the bigger European leagues and light things up. A move to MLS was in some respects a strange move, but with younger and higher profile up-and-comers joining MLS, LAFC were thought to have made a shrewd move for the silky midfielder.

The reality is that Horta not only struggled after arriving, but he was clearly outplayed by teammates and didn’t deserve to be a starter for the black-and-gold. It’s blunt, but it’s the truth.

His debut for LAFC went about as badly as possible. In the second El Trafico on July 26, Horta finally comes off the bench in the 77th minute. When he enters, LAFC are ahead 2-0 at The Banc. Five minutes later, Romain Alessandrini scores to narrow LAFC’s lead to a goal. Horta didn’t play any real role in that one, he was behind the play, and the highlight shows him doing a little reaction of disappointment to seeing the ball go in after LAFC’s defense was carved up, a frequent sight for the team in 2018.

But then...disaster. Horta has the ball near the sideline from the Galaxy’s half. He attempts a ludicrous back pass to Tyler Miller, some 50+ yards away, and no surprise, MLS strikers aren’t rubes, and the Galaxy pounced on the massive mistake, with Ola Kamara scoring to tie up the game, ultimately splitting the points and preventing LAFC from taking their first win in the rivalry.

That was bad, but players make mistakes. It happens all the time. Sure, most mistakes aren’t quite as catastrophic as that one, but it was his first game, the first of many. Couldn’t be all bad, right?

No, his subsequent performances weren’t all that bad. But the problem was by and large, they weren’t good, either. A colleague pointed out to me during LAFC’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss against the Houston Dynamo, in which Horta again came off the bench but played 66 minutes by virtue of the game going to extra time and then penalties, that the midfielder was a turnover machine. Once he pointed that out, it was all I could see. Horta would receive the ball, and a defender would lightly push him off the ball. Or he’d pass it straight to the other team, again and again. When your team doesn’t use a traditional defensive midfielder, effectively playing without a safety net, this is untenable, truly. Again, mistakes happen, but Horta did not take to MLS quickly at all.

Horta 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 11 3 319 0 0 11 2 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 1 0 66 0 0 2 0 0 0
MLS Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 12 3 385 0 0 13 2 0 0

So can we rule him a bust at this point? No, of course not. There is a pretty good tradition of players, including Designated Players, who struggled in their first season in MLS, only to find some traction in a later season, with a full preseason and time to get acclimated to the league and to living in the U.S. This is especially prevalent for DPs who join in the summer. For every Wayne Rooney who hits the ground running, there’s a Pedro Santos, who doesn’t, and in the latter’s case, never really has. But there’s also examples like Sebastian Blanco, who was pretty mediocre in his first season with the Portland Timbers, before finding his footing in his second season there.

And Horta had a good game, when he started and played just over an hour in a 4-2 road win over Toronto FC. He exited the game with LAFC leading 3-0, and was assured and seemed to be in sync with his teammates for the first time.

But if it isn’t fair to label Horta a bust right now, it’s also not a given he’ll be a star next year. Carlos Vela exceeded expectations in his first year, and Diego Rossi became a breakout young star, more than exceeding projections as well. Horta could find his footing in 2019 and make it a cool 3-for-3 successes in the DP department for LAFC. Or he could continue to struggle like his compatriot Santos, and never really figure out how to mold his game to fit in MLS. LAFC have invested a fortune in him, but they can’t really afford to have him be an expensive bench player in 2019. In that respect, next season will be a make-or-break year for Andre Horta at LAFC.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!