Before we jump in with the matter at hand, want to take a moment to discuss Kobe Bryant. Just 12 days ago, I was on hand to watch him come to The Banc, hang out with LAFC academy kids during a promotional event, mill about with a handful of MLS players and chat with LAFC personnel, including longtime NBA executive and current LAFC president Tom Penn.
He leaves behind a complicated legacy, no question. He was both an icon and reviled, although in Los Angeles he is by and large the former.
Our thoughts go out to the families of those killed in the helicopter crash, and the reports that Bryant’s daughter Gianna also died is devastating. Los Angeles is stunned, and will continue to be for some time. That’s ok, you’re allowed to have the feelings you have.
Now, switching gears, let’s talk about Los Angeles Football Club’s 2-0 win over Peñarol in a preseason friendly on Saturday at The Banc. It was a pretty comprehensive win for LAFC, which was a tad surprising considering just who played in the game.
Presumed starters Kenneth Vermeer, Latif Blessing (out of position at right back), Tristan Blackmon, Diego Palacios, Brian Rodriguez and Carlos Vela started for LAFC. Perhaps only Adama Diomande is a realistic starting option who played in the second half. In between them? Bench options like Pablo Sisniega, Jordan Harvey, Mohamed El-Munir, Dejan Jakovic, Alejandro Guido, Josh Perez and Adrien Perez, plus draft picks Jack Hallahan, Younes Boudadi, and Jorge Gonzalez, all on trial for the time being.
Then there were three players from Phoenix Rising FC — Kevon Lambert started, Jordan Schweitzer and Junior Flemmings came on in the second half — and all three appear to be guest players (termed as “on loan” on the club website, although I doubt they are formally actually on loan), meaning they probably won’t stick around much longer. Any or all of the three could possibly get a contract offer, LAFC was clearly looking to fill out the numbers and get an extra look at some guys, but I wouldn’t necessarily hold my breath about it.
Finally, it was a landmark night in some respects as six LAFC Academy players — Erik Dueñas, Christian Torres, Tony Leone, Diego Rosales and Armando Avila — played in the game. I’d say at this point these players are probably among the top candidates to earn a Homegrown contract (no guarantees, of course), probably in the next year but possibly sooner. MLS teams are getting more and more aggressive at signing teenagers these days, but with LAFC not running their own USL team at this point, they may not be ready to go nuts signing 15-year-olds. Either way, it was a thrilling night for the players themselves and their families, and a sign that the first true Homegrown signing from the LAFC Academy is on the horizon.
Random thoughts/news from the game:
- First thoughts on Vermeer: For those who got nervous about Tyler Miller hanging out around the top of the 18-yard box when LAFC was in possession, buckle up, because Vermeer spent much of his 45 minutes of action roughly 25 yards out from goal, no joke. This is obviously part of the generation of sweeper keepers, but you should absolutely expect a few opponents to attempt chip shots from midfield if Vermeer is indeed the No. 1.
- Vela in midseason form: The absolute highlight of the game was Carlos Vela’s dagger in the first half to open the scoring, a trademark left-footed curler from outside the box.
- Good news to see Vela is already looking deadly, even in the first preseason game.
- Yo Adrien: Adrien Perez scored the second goal on the night, shortly before halftime, as he slammed home a rebound. There’s lots of talk coming out of preseason camp that A. Perez is making a big jump this year in camp. He will be a bench and rotation option, but if he capitalizes on the playing time he does get, we know he can get more playing time, as Bob Bradley rewards players in form. Good work from the local guy.
- Thoughts on Peñarol: Diego Forlan seemed to use a pretty young squad, and they really were not on pace on the evening. They had a second-half penalty attempt that missed the mark, preserving the LAFC shutout, and they really didn’t put up too much of a fight overall. Of course, there were a couple scuffles, so there was some trademark Uruguayan spirit, and Schweitzer in particular seemed to endear himself to LAFC fans for going toe-to-toe alongside Diomande in one second-half scuffle.
All in all, it was a good opening (preseason) night for LAFC. But there’s plenty of work to do, with the first competitive game less than a month away.
If you were at the game, what were your thoughts? If you weren’t, what are you curious about? Let’s chat in the comments below.