But with four, possibly five, players in the reckoning to go to the World Cup for their respective countries, Saturday’s game against the Portland Timbers is likely to be the team’s last true pre-World Cup game.
MLSsoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal recently reported that MLS received a waiver from FIFA that teams don’t have to release called up players until May 28. Camps could start as soon as this coming Monday, however, and Stejskal indicates many MLS teams won’t drag their feet on releasing their players next week because they don’t want to drive a wedge between themselves, their players and those players’ federations.
So what we’ll see is likely to be a case-by-case basis next week, but given the expressed support LAFC head coach Bob Bradley and GM John Thorrington have shown for internationals on the squad, it seems quite likely some or all of the four to five players will be out on international duty next week.
Here’s the LAFC schedule before the first World Cup game on June 14:
- Saturday: at Portland Timbers (MLS regular season)
- Tuesday: vs. Borussia Dortmund (friendly)
- May 26: vs. D.C. United (MLS regular season)
- June 2: at FC Dallas (MLS regular season)
- June 6: TBD (U.S. Open Cup)
- June 9: at San Jose Earthquakes (MLS regular season)
Following the June 9 game, LAFC will have a two-week break in league play, in line with the rest of MLS. However, if they win their June 6 game in the U.S. Open Cup, they look set to have a round of 16 Open Cup game on June 20, so if they get to that point (and hopefully they do), their actual World Cup break will be 11 days, certainly not nothing but not a huge break by any means.
Now, World Cup-caliber players tend to be pretty good for their club teams. What will the impact be on the lineup?
- Carlos Vela (F, Mexico): Started all 10 of LAFC’s games, scored six goals and five assists
- Marco Ureña (F, Costa Rica): 7 games started, five assists; Has missed last three LAFC games due to injury
- Steven Beitashour (D, Iran): 10 games started, one goal, three assists - core member of LAFC backline
- Omar Gaber (D/M, Egypt): 6 games played, 2 starts; Battled injuries early in the season
- Laurent Ciman (D, Belgium): 10 games started, two goals, captain of team
Caveat time: Ciman hasn’t officially been called up yet by Belgium, but it seems like it will happen, from what I’ve heard.
Also, while Ureña was included on a de facto 23-man roster by Costa Rica’s coach, these players’ places in Russia aren’t guaranteed until June 4 when final rosters are submitted. Beitashour is the most “on the bubble” player of the LAFC five, but if he’s called into the preliminary roster, he’s in the running, and at the very least he’ll be gone for a spell as he looks to win a spot at Iran’s training camp.
So, before we jump into a brave new world of new lineups with these guys gone for a couple weeks or a couple months, it’s worth enjoying the last time “O.G. LAFC” (yes, I know that sounds ridiculous) will be fielded. After this, Bradley is going to have to rotate his lineup out of necessity, and big changes are coming.
And by the time these guys are all back with LAFC, soccer gods willing healthy and safe and sound, Andre Horta will be ready or just about ready to play after the secondary transfer window opens on July 10, and we’ll embark on the next phase of LAFC’s season. Saturday in Portland will be the curtain on the first phase of the inaugural campaign. Here’s hoping the original group ends on a high.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!