Los Angeles Football Club kicked off their second preseason on Monday, and helpfully released a list of the unsigned players on trial to kick off the preparations for the 2019 season.
Team writer Vince La Rosa supplied a list of 11 players invited to preseason camp for LAFC. Some of these players will be no surprise, being taken in the MLS Draft or having their rights acquired by the club in the offseason, while others are decently known locally, and there’s a few who may be essentially unknowns for an MLS audience.
The draft picks
Three of the players on here are no surprise at all: Midfielders Peter-Lee Vassell, Javi Perez and Kevin Mendoza, who were all taken in the MLS SuperDraft earlier this month. Notably, perhaps, is that Vassell is included on the “invited” list, so either his deal is still in the works, or it’s not actually a guarantee he’ll be on the roster at this point.
The waiver draft pick
Ricky Lopez-Espin is the other player who is not a surprise to be in camp, after his rights were selected by LAFC in the Waiver Draft back in December. The 23-year-old forward was on Real Salt Lake’s roster last year, but the Creighton product spent most of his time playing for RSL’s USL side, Real Monarchs.
The big name in this group is veteran midfielder Baggio Husidic. The 31-year-old is a versatile midfielder who has also played fullback in the past. He began his career with the Chicago Fire in 2009, but after a stint in Sweden he returned to the U.S. and played for the LA Galaxy from 2014-18, making over 100 appearances there.
Yes, a former Galaxy player. This day was going to come at some point, and initial response from both fanbases seems to be quite negative. As a deep-roster experienced midfielder, Husidic’s game would fit in Bob Bradley’s style of play, and the price would potentially be attractive. He also would not occupy an international roster slot. He has battled injury problems throughout his tenure with the Galaxy, however, and we’ll see if he earns a spot on the roster or not.
The former USYNT player
Alejandro Guido is in camp as well. The 24-year-old has spent his entire career with Club Tijuana, aside from a loan stint at Dorados, but he’s barely played, featuring just about 60 times total since going pro in 2012.
He’s billed as a defensive midfielder, and grew up in San Diego. Guido played extensively in the past for the U-17 and U-18 U.S. National Teams, so if the name sounds familiar, that’s why. He could be an option as cheap domestic midfield depth if he earns a contract at LAFC.
Right now, LAFC have just one goalkeeper, Tyler Miller, under contract. They’ll need two more this year. There are two players invited on the list who play ‘keeper.
The first is Wade Hamilton. The 24-year-old grew up in Murrieta, played college soccer at Cal Poly, and was drafted by the Portland Timbers in 2016. His pro experience to date is entirely in USL, as he played for Portland Timbers 2 for two seasons and then for LA Galaxy II last year.
The other goalkeeper is Philip Ejimadu. He is a U.S. U-20 international (he’s the player wearing No. 12 in this photo) with an interesting background. If this article from a Nigerian blog is accurate, he’s an American-born player with a Nigerian father and Brazilian mother who has lived in Brazil since he was seven. LAFC’s release says his last club was Nacional Atlético Clube, which appears to be the name of about eight different teams in Brazil. My initial searches don’t seem to indicate he’s played at the professional first-team level yet.
Two players not covered above come from USL teams. The first is Lamar Batista, coming from Timbers 2, where he played center back the last two seasons, making 44 league appearances as well as one U.S. Open Cup appearance for the MLS Timbers. Batista played one season at UC Santa Barbara and is only 20, so he is in effect a draft pick-aged player with some actual pro experience. Will that be enough to snag a spot on the roster as a reserve defender?
The other player only has a little USL experience, in midfielder Conor O’Brien, but he most recently played for the Charlotte Independence in 2018. The 30-year-old has spent most of his career in Europe, playing primarily in Denmark (Blokhus, SønderjyskE, Nordsjælland, OB, Horsens) but also in Austria (Wiener Neustadt) and Norway (IK Start). All told, he’s got close to 200 games of pro experience under his belt, billed as a defensive midfielder but capable of scoring on occasion in the past.
The indoor guy
Rounding out the group is Adrien Perez, a player who most recently played indoor soccer for the Ontario Fury. He was named MASL Player of the Week last month. He played college soccer at Loyola Marymount. Perez appears to be 23, is an Ontario (California) native, and appears to have played at least one game in the U.S. Open Cup last year for PDL side FC Golden State Force.
Basically, he looks like a local guy looking for a chance. Indoor players moving back and forth between outdoor used to be the norm in American soccer, but it has become less common in recent years. One local example of an indoor player who made an MLS roster in recent years was Cesar Romero, who earned a spot in preseason for Chivas USA in 2012, spent a season in MLS, then went on to have a moderately successful career in Armenia. So it’s possible.
So, that’s who is in camp alongside the signed LAFC players. Some of these players will likely leave by next week, and others may stick around and earn that coveted contract. And there will be other trialists who join during camp. We’ll see how they progress ahead of the season opener on March 3.
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