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LAFC sign Salvadoran forward Rodolfo Zelaya

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Central American star comes with a Green Card!

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-Mexico at El Salvador Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club announced on Wednesday they have signed Salvadoran forward Rodolfo “Fito” Zelaya on a two-year deal following his transfer from Alianza FC.

Notably, Zelaya has a green card and won’t occupy an international roster slot as a result.

“We’re pleased to secure a player of Rodolfo’s quality as we continue our preparations for the 2019 season,” said general manager and EVP of soccer operations John Thorrington in a team statement. “Rodolfo is a proven goalscorer, both at the club and international levels, and he will add another dimension to our attack. Along with our supporters, we are excited to welcome him to Los Angeles and integrating him to the group as soon as possible.”

The 30-year-old is arguably the biggest star in El Salvador, having helped Alianza to a slew of titles, while winning the league’s Golden Boot three times in his career.

He’s spent two stints abroad, briefly at Club Leon when they were in the Mexican second tier, and then at Russian outfit Alania Vladikavkaz, when they went from the Russian Premier League to the second flight.

Zelaya is likely well known stateside for his exploits in the Concacaf Gold Cup, where he’s played in four tournaments for El Salvador and scored nine of his 21 goals for his country. His Gold Cup notoriety goes both ways, however, as a match-fixing scandal that ensnared the Salvadoran national team at the 2011 Gold Cup led to significant punishments, including lifetime bans for several players. Zelaya was punished, a year’s suspension, so it was not insignificant but also far from the harshest punishment levied in the case.

While Zelaya had been mooted in the past as an obvious candidate to come to MLS, that suspension seemed to kill off most of the speculation tying him to the league. Now, LAFC have made the leap. Will he make all the teams that passed on him over the years regret it?

What will Zelaya’s role be with LAFC? I’d expect him to compete for a starting spot, but if he’s not adept at playing as a wide forward in Bob Bradley’s system, he’ll likely be a rotation/depth player at central striker, behind Adama Diomande and/or Christian Ramirez. Given the level he’s played at, I think he’s got potential to play well but I wouldn’t expect a bucketload of goals, just based on that and playing time he’d get. But we’ll see. LAFC are sure to find inroads with the soccer-loving Salvadoran population in Los Angeles with Zelaya’s signing, and he’s a quality player to boot, so this isn’t a signing done merely with jersey sales in mind.

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