In many respects, Los Angeles Football Club had the best expansion season in Major League Soccer to date. They set a record for points in the regular season with 57, and placed third in the Western Conference, becoming the fifth expansion team to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for LAFC, their Decision Day matchup landed against Sporting Kansas City, who finished first in the conference with a win. Meanwhile, the Seattle Sounders won their final game, bumping LAFC into the knockout rounds of the playoffs, where they were eliminated by Real Salt Lake.
As LAFC head into their second season, and look at the “MLS 3.0“ expansion standard set by Atlanta United, it’s worth a look as to how LAFC will follow up their stellar debut.
When it comes to the forwards of the group and the attacking corps LAFC has put together, there are very few, if any, question marks. Their style of play under Bob Bradley was not only attractive to watch, but set the tone early on in the season as the backbone of the team. The attack of LAFC was really never what cost the team points.
LAFC’s forward group was anchored by Designated Players Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, who led the team the whole year. Vela finished the season with 14 goals and 13 assists, despite leaving the team mid-season for Mexico’s World Cup campaign, and Rossi notched 12 goals with nine assists in league play. Vela and Rossi were assisted up front by Latif Blessing, who bagged five goals and six assists, and turned out to be a game-changing player for LAFC after coming from Sporting Kansas City.
LAFC also had the services of Marco Ureña, and added Christian Ramirez and Adama Diomande midway through the season. The likes of Diomande quickly surpassed Ureña to start up front, scoring 12 goals, and Ramirez provided a spark late in the season.
The roster will look different, but not too different, in 2019. Vela and Rossi will return as DPs, and there will be no World Cup to take Vela for over a month. Diomande will have a full season as starting striker, and Ramirez will look to become an integral part of the team. LAFC also has Josh Perez, whom they signed from Fiorentina in the middle of last season, and Rodolfo Zelaya, their newest signing from El Salvador, to provide some depth. Lee Nguyen also plays as more of an attacking midfielder, and he will start for Bob Bradley once again.
For LAFC, the consistency can only help. The best players on the team are still here and will have yet another season to work together. Vela, Rossi, and Diomande will likely be the starting three up front, with Ramirez ready to come off the bench at any time or rotate into the starting lineup.
LAFC’s debut season saw them score 68 goals, just two behind Atlanta’s record of 70 by an expansion side. That 68 goals was also the most in the Western Conference, as well as good for second in MLS (to Atlanta, who scored 70). The team set the bar as high as any expansion team in history, and almost as high as they possibly could. Now, they will look to follow it up with an improved attacking core (Ramirez and Diomande are upgrades over Urena) and time to polish their style of play. Giving Bradley the same group to work with, after the group shined so bright the previous season as the best part of the team, should only lead to another successful season for LAFC.
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