Los Angeles Football Club fielded 28 players in competitive games in 2019, a pretty impressive number, especially considering how many starters played major minutes along the way.
But there were three players who bided their time, youngsters who were active in training or on loan but didn’t get the call with the first team, for whatever reason. To kick off our annual series, here’s a brief look back at each of their seasons.
The lanky defender had plenty of upside — size! youth! — but with fellow newcomer Eddie Segura locking down a starting spot at center back on day one and plenty of other players ahead of him on the depth chart, the 21-year-old, signed after being on the Portland Timbers roster, did not see the field in competitive action.
Batista did stay busy, however, as he went on loan, first to USL Championship side Phoenix Rising FC early in the season, and then to their sister club, USL League One outfit FC Tucson, later in the campaign.
At the latter club Batista found a groove, getting regular minutes alongside LAFC teammate Phillip Ejimadu (more on him in a moment), making 18 appearances in all, getting a USL League One Team of the Week selection and playing some major minutes. For a young player, that consistent playing time will be a boon to his development.
Will he be back for LAFC in 2019? Tough to say, especially since he didn’t end up on the field. One expects the backups at center back likely to change next year, and that could give him a shot at slotting behind Segura and Walker Zimmerman, but ultimately we’ll have to see what happens.
The third-string goalkeeper was also busy this year, as the 20-year-old Nigerian-Brazilian-American spent much of the season on loan at FC Tucson, making 15 appearances in total for the USL League One outfit.
It was good to see Ejimadu win the starting spot for Tucson outright and pretty much hang onto it until he started getting called to LAFC’s bench when Tyler Miller was away at the Gold Cup midseason. Ejimadu grabbed 37 saves and had four clean sheets, good for eighth in the league for the season.
Could he come back to LAFC next year? Sure, he’s young and affordable. Is he ready to compete for a starting spot? Not yet. Ejimadu was at times inconsistent game to game, and with the higher speed and skill level of MLS, that would be killer. At 20, he’s still so young, and could have a future at MLS level, but probably needs a couple more years of development at a lower level to see if he can turn into a top-flight ‘keeper in the future.
Unfortunately, the midfielder’s season amounted to fans eagerly wondering when he would be healthy for selection, which turned into an inside joke of sorts.
Guido seemed hobbled by a muscle injury most of the season, and by the time he came off the injury report, LAFC were in the business end of their campaign and he was likely well behind the curve in terms of fitness. Hard to say for certain from the outside, but it looked like a pretty unlucky set of circumstances all around.
It’s hard to remember that Guido was one of the bright prospects of American soccer a few years earlier, the California native at Club Tijuana and on the verge of really breaking through, maybe that club’s next Joe Corona. Alas, the instability which has racked Xolos for the past half-dozen years means few players are really nurtured and while Guido got by far the most playing time among the Americans who had come through the youth system there, he still hadn’t established himself as a regular.
At 25, Guido isn’t exactly a young prospect, but he’s not over the hill, either. It seems what he needs, however, is a team where he can play weekly and see if that promise will blossom. It doesn’t seem likely to be LAFC, which has an established pecking order in midfield already, but you never know.
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