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LAFC 2019 Player Postmortem: Peter-Lee Vassell

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Draft pick didn’t play much but showed potential on international duty.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Peter-Lee Vassell was Los Angeles Football Club’s top draft pick in 2019, and an unconventional one at that. Unlike nearly all draft picks who come straight out of college, Vassell had already been a pro in his native Jamaica for Harbour View FC for two years, and “won” the little-publicized Caribbean Combine, intended to uncover Caribbean talent to MLS teams at a younger age.

Vassell was a second-round pick for LAFC, and in many respects, going later helped manage expectations. A full Jamaican international, there had been a good track record of Jamaicans in MLS, but most were defenders, defensive midfielders or forwards.

In the end, Vassell had to contend with a stacked and possibly league-best midfield, and had trouble breaking through. He did see limited minutes, but it was hard to really get a beat on his ability at MLS level.

Here are Vassell’s statistics with LAFC in 2019:

Peter Lee-Vassell 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 6 2 177 0 1 5 3 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 6 2 177 0 1 5 3 0 0

One of the most ironic facts of Vassell’s season is that he went away with Jamaica for the Gold Cup, and saw some playing time, although he wasn’t a regular in the tournament, a stint highlighted by a pre-Gold Cup friendly against the U.S. Men’s National Team where Vassell bossed the game, truly.

But because he was on international duty when there was an opening in the lineup, he didn’t get to play more minutes and try to really break through with his club. You certainly can’t blame him for going to the Gold Cup, but he probably could have used that stretch to make a case with Bob Bradley.

Vassell’s last appearance with LAFC was in the July road win over the Houston Dynamo, in which the black-and-gold had to play on less than 48 hours’ rest. Vassell got the start in what was a surprise result considering the circumstances, but he was also pulled at halftime as Bradley made a tactical switch to try and control the game and get a win. It worked.

The midfielder also spent time on loan at Phoenix Rising FC, the LAFC player who got the most run there this season. Unlike the rest of his teammates, who did quick stints to start the season, Vassell became a contributor in the business end of Phoenix’s season, when they were steamrolling the rest of the USL Championship’s Western Conference. There, he played six games, starting three, and was in the mix on another very good team.

In hindsight, not playing after mid-July was probably as good a sign as any that Vassell may not have been in Bradley’s plans. His contract option was declined last week, and while he could return, the writing on the wall would seem to indicate that’s unlikely. We’ll see.

Here’s the bottom line: Vassell is only 21, and while he was not up to the level of Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing and Lee Nguyen in 2019, I think he’s still got plenty of potential at MLS level and the fit may not have been right at LAFC. It seems like consistency is something he needs to cultivate, but if you remember that friendly against the U.S. in the summer, you’ll recall how good Vassell really was in that game, and if that’s his level in a year or two, he’ll turn out to be a very good player.

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