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LAFC 2019 Player Postmortem: Mohamed El-Munir

Defender is pleasant surprise in limited minutes for LAFC.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Mohamed El-Munir was an intriguing addition to Los Angeles Football Club in 2019. Traded from Orlando City, after he helped smash the record for goals conceded in an MLS season, the Libyan left back didn’t look like he had the goods to be a defender in MLS, frankly.

As it turned out, Orlando City players who have left the club and stayed in MLS (such as El-Munir, Amro Tarek and Richie Laryea) often tend to be much better players at their new teams, and while injuries and a deep roster at left back kept him from becoming a starter, El-Munir definitely held his own for the Supporters’ Shield winners.

In hindsight, it appears he was acquired as an insurance policy for the other two left backs on the roster by season’s end, in 2018 starter Jordan Harvey and midseason signing Diego Palacios. In particular, Harvey, who was 35 at the start of the season, had been a full-time starter the last 10 seasons in MLS. Playing mostly as a stay-at-home full back in LAFC’s system in 2018, there was the question of whether Father Time had or would catch up to him this year, and so bringing in El-Munir, 26 to begin the season, made sense.

In the long run, I expect Palacios to be the starter at left back, but I think El-Munir came in to provide depth and a starter-caliber quality, and in the spot duty we saw, he seemed like he fit LAFC’s system well and played well enough.

Here are El-Munir’s statistics in 2019:

Mohamed El-Munir 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 15 4 581 1 0 11 3 2 0
U.S. Open Cup 1 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0
MLS Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 16 4 585 1 0 11 3 2 0

One play defined El-Munir’s season, for better or worse, and that was when Zlatan Ibrahimovic fractured his skull as the pair went up to contest an aerial in El Trafico in July. I think you can debate whether or not Ibrahimovic was head-hunting El-Munir on the play, but he escaped sanction completely, while El-Munir was temporarily left with a nasty indent in his head.

The good news is he had surgery, it was apparently successful, and he was back playing about a month later. Thank goodness it wasn’t worse.

I think LAFC fans were by and large really excited when they did get to see El-Munir play. His obvious strength is in attack, and his lone goal on the season was a banger.

At the same time, he had the defensive highlight of the season, in the shock road win over Houston where LAFC had to travel and play on less than 48 hours’ rest.

El-Munir’s contract option for 2020 was picked up, and I think he deserves another run with the group. Again, he didn’t get a ton of run but was better than expected when he did feature.

It’s also worth thinking about the human side of the business. El-Munir thoughtfully discussed his appreciation of Bob Bradley’s respect for him as a Muslim during the season, saying Bradley was only the second coach in his career who actually supported his religious observance during Ramadan.

El-Munir seems like a player (who, don’t forget, is a native of Libya, torn up by civil war in recent years) who is craving a home, and who can blame him. As always, this is a business and we’ll see what the future holds for him, but hopefully he finds a real home in Los Angeles and it leads to a successful future with LAFC, too.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!