Los Angeles Football Club fans who were looking for a change in approach for the 2019 season are almost certainly going to be disappointed.
All of the signs coming out of preseason training camp, based primarily on head coach Bob Bradley’s words, are that the team is sticking with the plan to play what he calls “good football.”
So if you’re looking for a midfield destroyer, or a drastic change in the formation, it’s not likely to happen.
Now, take a step back. What does this mean?
First, LAFC have committed to playing an attacking brand of soccer, one that at its ideal is intended to outplay the opposition, with the team defending as a group and trying to push opponents under tremendous stress, playing quickly and attempting to score often.
This is a great brand of soccer! We saw last season just how exciting LAFC were to watch. I began using the catchphrase “Never Boring” with this team, and it was true. There was seldom a game where the team was kind of going through the motions, or barely hanging on to a stalemate, something that remains fairly common in MLS.
Ok, so if it’s a great ideal style of soccer, can LAFC make it successful? That’s the big question.
Take any comments Bradley makes about the team’s play, like this video after the 2-2 draw against Atlanta United on Monday, and you’ll see he stresses the same key ideas, namely, execution of the style of “good football.”
I think a lot of watchers of MLS figured after LAFC got upset in the opening round of the playoffs last year that Bradley would opt to make some significant adjustments for 2019. Perhaps, the much-discussed “no defensive midfielder” system would be jettisoned for someone who fit that role, so that the team would fit in MLS better? Maybe it was some kind of long play for his son Michael to join the team?
So far, zero indications that is the case. At the MLS draft, Bradley was critical of those who painted LAFC as not having a defensive midfielder as not paying attention to the team playing, which, on some level, he’s right. He said Eduard Atuesta is basically a defensive midfielder, and you can argue Mark-Anthony Kaye has played a similar role for LAFC at times, too. Both of those players are coming back.
In defense, LAFC made two moves, trading for Mohamed El Munir and signing Eddie Segura out of Colombia. Segura has been playing major minutes in preseason and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushes Danilo Silva to be a starter. It seems like El Munir could also be in line for starter’s minutes, with the timeless Jordan Harvey perhaps in more need of a timeshare at left back in the near future.
We’ll have to see what happens with these two. Segura remains an unknown quantity at MLS level and we know that LAFC’s high-octane style puts a lot of stress on the central defenders. But if he comes through and takes to MLS as well as Atuesta did, then LAFC could possibly have their central defense set for years to come.
Meanwhile, one of the enduring mysteries of this offseason is how hot the market in MLS has been for Orlando City defenders. El Munir was part of the most leaky defense in MLS history, allowing 74 goals in 34 games, and while he was good going forward, he seemed to be a huge liability on defense, for a defensive unit that was historically bad. Will he be able to boost a defense looking for more stability, or will his year with Orlando be a sign of what’s to come for LAFC?
But I digress. What should we expect from LAFC tactically in 2019? From what Bradley has said, it’s full speed ahead, and he’s determined to see his group execute his brand of good football in MLS. If it works, LAFC will likely go down as one of the great teams in MLS history. If it doesn’t, the idealism is sure to produce further discontent from fans looking for a title-winning team.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!