Looking up and down the roster for Los Angeles Football Club, most positions seem to be solid, especially if coach Bob Bradley stays with a 4-3-3 formation.
On defense, there is the likes of Steven Beitashour, Laurent Ciman, Jordan Harvey and Walker Zimmerman who all have a plethora of experience.
In attack, LAFC has Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, along with expansion draftee Latif Blessing and internationals Rodrigo Pacheco and Marco Urena.
And, really in the midfield, Benny Feilhaber, Omar Gaber and Mark-Anthony Kaye who can fill the bill along with Calum Mallace.
But, looking at the roster and understanding the 4-3-3 formation, one thing looks to be lacking – a defensive midfielder.
Typically, at least two of the midfielders in that formation need a strong sense of defense to serve as a shield for our back four. Now, Feilhaber is more of the offensive type and a playmaker as he was for Sporting Kansas City. You could loosely liken him to a traditional trequartista – which is more of a center playmaker backing up the attack.
So, that leaves Kaye, who has been more of an offensive pressing midfielder for Louisville FC and Canada, and Gaber. The latter has played defensive midfielder for the Egyptian National Team and with FC Basel before landing in Los Angeles. It is completely conceivable that Gaber fills the role of a defensive midfielder on the right.
But, what about the left side?
Here is where things get a little tricky. No. 1 draft pick Joao Moutinho could slot in as a defensive midfielder as he did at the University of Akron, but he lacks professional experience. Where will he play in MLS? That’s the big question right now.
Mallace was third in assists for Montreal Impact in 2015 and had 13 goals with 13 assists for Marquette University in his collegiate career, but has played more of a holding role in four and five-man midfields in Montreal. Can he hold his own in a three-man midfield if LAFC keep that set-up?
Aaron Kovar had 21 shot attempts in his third season with Seattle Sounders in 2016 before he suffered his clavicle injury, so again … not much defense there either.
LAFC seem to have plenty in the attack in the middle, but without a second defensive midfielder on the left (or right, if Gaber wants to switch), there could be a big defensive exposure risk that would leave one side of the field unprotected in front of the back line.
This isn’t to say the midfielders LAFC have on the roster aren’t capable of dropping back and playing defense, but doing it in a pinch as opposed to that being a primary focus are two different things.
Now, both Maurice Edu and Bryan de la Fuente completed their trials with LAFC this week, as noted in this story. It is feasible that the team goes after one of them, but Edu hasn’t seen a lot of action lately and neither has de la Fuente (plus, de la Fuente is a forward first and foremost). Plus, it seems likely neither of them will sign with LAFC.
LAFC still have quite a few needs in filling out their first roster — starters, depth, and players of all positions. But with the countdown on to March 4, it appears midfielders who can play defense may be the priority.
What do you think? Leave your comment below!