Los Angeles Football Club have not experienced much turnover at all during the offseason, so it’s fairly easy to project most of their starting XI for 2019.
Barring injury, Tyler Miller will almost certainly be the starting goalkeeper. Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi will start in attack, and Adama Diomande will likely join them as the central striker. Lee Nguyen seems set to be the minutes workhorse in midfield with Benny Feilhaber moving on. Walker Zimmerman is a lock to start in defense. Steven Beitashour will almost certainly reprise his role as right back.
That’s seven spots of 11 pretty well set. The other four? Let’s look at the options ahead of March 3.
Midfield: Two slots, three players
Don’t be surprised if LAFC rotate the midfielders around Nguyen this year. Bob Bradley seemed to go with a policy of riding the hot hand, which makes complete sense, and if we assume Nguyen is going to be pretty close to a lock as the one with the best playmaking skills from midfield, that means Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Andre Horta will battle for the other two spots.
Atuesta and Kaye showed they could hang in MLS last season, and have become cult favorites, with their age meaning they’re expected to improve this year. That obviously also goes for Horta, LAFC’s third Designated Player who struggled after joining midseason. The good news is that LAFC seem to have enough quality in midfield that Horta won’t be pressured to play when it’s not working. But given the money spent for him and the expectations placed on the guy, it seems like everyone very much wants him to start performing. If he can get the hang of MLS and Bradley’s style, he’ll have the inside track of being a starter. If not? We’ll see.
Left back: Transition time?
MLS teams generally aim for a starter and a reserve at each fullback position. LAFC brought back 2018 starter Jordan Harvey and then traded for Mohamed El-Munir. They’re also reportedly looking to bring in Niko Hamalainen in on loan.
Harvey has been a rock in MLS dating back to 2009, and he was strong in 2018 for LAFC, playing a less-flashy role compared to his counterpart Beitashour, who pushed forward to join in the attack far more often.
But Harvey is 35 and the biggest question with his re-signing this offseason was whether he’d be up for another season as starter. Maybe El-Munir would be the answer? But if Hamalainen does join on loan, what does that say about the other two?
Maybe I’m overthinking it, and Harvey and El-Munir will split the time, or one of them will win out and become the starter. El-Munir looked very shaky last year in Orlando, but maybe a combination of it being his first year in MLS and Orlando City being a disaster did him no favors. He’s 26 so would presumably be entering his prime with LAFC right now.
That opening game on March 3 will likely tell us a lot about which player has the inside track to be starter, but at this point it still looks like a tossup from the outside.
Center back: Silva or Segura?
The third position where there appears to be some competition for a starting spot coming in is the center back who will be paired with Walker Zimmerman. Danilo Silva was the starter last year after Laurent Ciman left, but he hasn’t played a lot in preseason, partly because he arrived at preseason late due to immigration paperwork hold-ups.
Newcomer Eddie Segura has played a lot in preseason, in contrast. Was that an expediency issue with Silva and Zimmerman away for much of training camp? Or is the 22-year-old in line for starter’s minutes during the regular season?
I am leaning towards Segura seeing starter’s minutes, perhaps right away. LAFC initially signed him on a 6-month loan, which means they’ll have to make a decision rather quickly about his future. I’m guessing LAFC feel pretty confident already that they’ll pick up that option, but I also think he may get a chance to start immediately, too.
Who do you think will be starting for the black-and-gold? Leave a comment below!