It’s one of the most exciting days of the year, the start of preseason training for Los Angeles Football Club. LAFC and the other four MLS teams participating in Concacaf Champions League this year get a week’s head start on the rest of the league. And they’ll need it!
In the history of the CCL, no MLS team has won the tournament in the current format, or the previous one, either. While three teams (Real Salt Lake in 2010-11, Montreal Impact in 2014-14 and Toronto FC in 2018) have recently reached the final, they did not win it, and the last non Liga MX team to capture the title is Costa Rican power Saprissa way back in 2005. That is a lot of futility! There are various reasons for it, but suffice it to say LAFC — who also have the hardest draw in the tournament this year — have their work cut out for them if they want to make a deep run.
Here are the notable links for this Monday morning:
- Preseason uncertainty: Kevin Baxter reported over the weekend in The Los Angeles Times the uncertainty surrounding LAFC heading into preseason. Obviously every team has some of that coming in, but with Tyler Miller’s status not yet clarified, goalkeeper is probably the biggest question coming in. And that’s not a position you can have a question about when the games start. We’ll see if the New Jersey native is spotted at training this week.
- Preseason schedule: There will be two open-door tune-ups, Jan. 25 against Peñarol and Feb. 12 against Toronto FC, both at The Banc. Otherwise, the club has announced closed-door preseason games against NYCFC (Jan. 31) and FC Dallas (Feb. 6), with probably another double-secret scrimmage or two thrown in along the way.
- Transfer rumor! The latest is LAFC have signed Ecuadorian midfielder Jose Cifuentes, with a photo of John Thorrington hovering over the player as he signs a piece of paper making the social media rounds over the weekend. Cifuentes, 20, was a teammate of Diego Palacios on the Ecuador U-20 team at the U-20 World Cup last year, and he was arguably the breakout star of that La Tri team that made a deep run. Expect this one to be announced this week.
- MLS Draft: LAFC had a draft pick in each of the first two rounds on Thursday, and with their late-round selections, picked two intriguing players. In the first round, they selected Brazilian GK Paulo Pita, who played collegiately at Marshall and College of Charleston, at the latter school he was an All-American selection and Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the NCAA tournament. In the second round, LAFC picked University of Michigan midfielder/forward Jack Hallahan, an English-born Irish youth international who has been one of the NCAA standouts the past couple seasons. Both players apparently require international slots, but if LAFC remains as diligent about international roster slot management as they did last year, either or both could make the roster if they impress in preseason.
- Fito moves on: No surprise, Rodolfo Zelaya has moved onto new pastures, the Salvadoran forward signing for Ascenso MX side Celaya FC after his LAFC contract was canceled by mutual consent. It sounded like a good idea, but it didn’t work out, and frankly, that happens.
- Blackmon/Beitashour happenings: Tristan Blackmon signed a contract extension last week, while Steven Beitashour is still a free agent, and made his displeasure with LAFC apparently not offering him a good enough deal known to Kevin Baxter. Blackmon had a breakout back half of 2019, but is that the last we’ve seen of Beita in black-and-gold?
- eMLS update: LAFC’s debut in eMLS went pretty well, with Martin “RemiMartinn” Oregel finishing in 7th place on Day 1 with a 7W-1L-4D record, good enough to qualify for the knockouts at League Series One in Philadelphia. He fell in the quarterfinal round to Vancouver Whitecaps representative Alex “extraa” Gonzalez-Aldana, who took a narrow win. The next eMLS event will be League Series Two on Feb. 15 in Portland.
Today’s question: What’s your biggest concern of LAFC’s roster as preseason begins? Let us know in the comments and we can chat through it on this Monday.