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LAFC 2019 Player Postmortem: Niko Hamalainen

Young American got taste of MLS before moving on.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Niko Hamalainen was one of the offseason additions for Los Angeles Football Club that tipped the club’s hand at their strategy for adding depth. LAFC clearly did their homework in finding players who were dual U.S. nationals or who had green cards, and Hamalainen, who was born and raised in Florida, was on the fringes of the Finnish National Team and the son of a Finnish footballer, but was still looking to establish himself in the pro game.

Hamalainen joined LAFC on a six-month loan from English club Queens Park Rangers, and was clearly intended to be depth with Jordan Harvey the starter and Mohamed El-Munir waiting in the wings. However, El-Munir was hurt early in the season, and given Harvey’s advanced age, Hamalainen did actually hit the pitch and play minutes, albeit limited.

In three appearances, Hamalainen had two notable games. In his debut, he set up Walker Zimmerman off the bench for the game-winner against Real Salt Lake in March.

The other notable outing wasn’t quite as positive, as Hamalainen’s lone start came in Vancouver, for LAFC’s first loss of the season when Bob Bradley rotated three-quarters of their defense while playing on short rest. In that game, Hamalainen wasn’t necessarily poor, but LAFC’s new-look and youthful lineup struggled to get in the game and making such wholesale changes negatively impacted the lineup on the night and led to the loss.

Here were Hamalainen’s statistics with LAFC:

Niko Hamalainen 2019 LAFC statistics

2019 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2019 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 3 1 95 0 1 0 0 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
MLS Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 3 1 95 0 1 0 0 0 0

After the Vancouver game, Hamalainen didn’t feature again for LAFC, and his loan stint ended in the summer without LAFC picking up his option (assuming they had one, nearly every MLS loan includes those).

He then went on another loan spell, to Scottish Premier League outfit Kilmarnock. Currently sitting in midtable, Hamalainen is getting a regular run of games, featuring in 11 of 13 league matches so far for Killie and getting named to the SPL Team of the Week multiple times.

And while many players who come to a club for six months then move on don’t really seem to keep up with the old side, the 22-year-old has periodically shown on his social media channels he’s still keeping up with LAFC and rooting them on from Scotland.

And while Hamalainen is trying to decide whether to declare to play for Finland or the United States, he told Brian Sciaretta in a recent profile on American Soccer Now that his stint with LAFC may have been brief, but it was positive:

“I just remember always being there literally every week and the mentality was definitely: we’re going to win every week. Even though didn’t really play as many games but just being around that in training and stuff, you get just a sense of this is how your mentality needs to be in training. it was great, great experience going out to LAFC,” he said.

Hamalainen has already left LAFC, but he’s finding his footing in the pro game. We’ll see where the journey takes him moving forward.

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