In surprising but not stunning news, Benny Feilhaber signed a deal with the Colorado Rapids. He was a mainstay in the Los Angeles Football Club midfield last year and one of the vice captains, but now his spot in the lineup will need to be filled.
So, what could that look like? Right now there are four official midfielders on the team, five if you count Friday’s MLS Draft pick Peter-Lee Vassell.
That leaves Eduard Atuesta, Andre Horta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Lee Nguyen.
Much of last year once Nguyen arrived saw him and Feilhaber both deployed as deep playmakers, though neither were a traditional “holding” midfielder, as it were.
It’s possible Bob Bradley continues this set-up, swapping in Horta for Feilhaber’s slot. Horta will probably get more playing time next season, given his talent and the investment that LAFC have in him.
Or he could adjust Nguyen’s role in the team. In his time at New England, where he was at times an MVP-caliber player, Nguyen played in a more advanced role, mostly acting as a No. 10.
Nguyen could be pushed farther forward in midfield, but it’s not likely he’ll be played as a No. 10, as LAFC haven’t used a player in that position as such and the forward line looks deep already.
If there are no complications with his recovery, Kaye should be ready to start the season, but there are no guarantees. Kaye is likely to feature a lot again, given how he performed before he got hurt last season.
Atuesta, who Bradley told reporters at the Draft on Friday was effectively LAFC’s defensive midfielder, will likely get minutes, too, although it’s unclear where the pieces will fit.
There’s always the chance LAFC could add more midfielders. Maybe part of the reluctance in resigning Feilhaber was the idea that LAFC will get more of a traditional defensive midfielder for this season.
Also, Horta’s playing style, and the fact that he turned the ball over rather frequently last year, he could really do with a defensive midfielder to support him.
There is also the fact that LAFC’s central defense is not currently settled, and that area of the field was not exactly rock solid last year as it was.
Right now the midfield feels like a puzzle that is missing its last piece. We’ll have to see how it looks when March 3 rolls around.
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