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LAFC turn attention to playoff game, likely without their internationals

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Up to four starters, including Diego Rossi, are likely out for Sounders game.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Los Angeles FC
Bob Bradley likely won’t be able to count on Diego Palacios in the playoff game against Seattle.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club have finished a wild an truly unpredictable regular season, and have reached the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. Now, they need to gear up for the business end of the season, and see if they can reach MLS Cup.

But they’ll need to go through the defending MLS Cup champion first, the Seattle Sounders, and on the road. And they’ll almost certainly be without their November international call-ups.

Brian Rodriguez and Diego Rossi have both been called up by Uruguay for World Cup qualifiers this month, while the same is the case for Diego Palacios and Jose Cifuentes with Ecuador. LAFC have a standing policy of releasing players to go on international duty when called up, and they aren’t standing in the players’ way to accept call-ups.

But that means those players almost certainly won’t be available for the game against the Sounders. The final South American qualifier date in November is Nov. 17, and LAFC will play either Nov. 21, 22 or 24. After returning to the United States, players will have to quarantine, reportedly for nine days. Even if the playoff game were scheduled for Nov. 24, that’s not enough time for the quartet to clear quarantine.

LAFC aren’t the only team affected by this, with the Sounders expected to be without both Xavier Arreaga and Gustav Svensson for the playoff game due to international duty as well. Still, LAFC will be missing as many as four starters, and almost certainly their best player this season in Rossi, in the biggest game to date of the season.

When asked about all this in the context of the playoffs, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley had a long answer in the postgame press conference following Sunday’s 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers.

We are going to take the group that’s here. We know we play Seattle. We are going to work like crazy for two weeks and go to Seattle and give our best effort to move on.

I understand that this year has been difficult on the league in terms of schedule, and they tried to figure out a way that they could finish the season and have a champion. And so things like being in a bubble in Orlando and the MLS, the way the schedule has been put together, things like teams have missed a lot of games and points per game per standing and all these things, they are all products of a crazy year.

But one big one is playing playoff games when you don’t have players back from international break with quarantine. So what are you going to say? I’m not here to complain. But does it really — is it frustrating? It is incredibly frustrating. But there’s nothing that we can do. So you make sure that everybody that’s going to be here is ready.

We’ve got a couple weeks to continue training. We’ve thought about this for a few weeks, and so it’s just the situation that I guess is part of a crazy year. You know, scheduling international breaks, playing games when players are away, those are things that need to be improved. Because can you imagine if in Europe the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain and both teams missing a bunch of guys on quarantine? I mean, everybody would go crazy.

I think he threads the needle well here. MLS tried to do right by the clubs in having a break between the end of the regular season and playoffs to allow for international absences, and yet, they didn’t give it long enough to actually work right. Teams that let players go out on international duty are completely hamstrung for the playoffs, while teams that don’t let players go face the wrath of the player and/or national federation for declining call-ups.

It’s tough, but Bradley is also right that even though it sucks, they just have to get on with it. Carlos Vela started, scored and went the full 90 on Sunday, and hopefully he’s in shape to put in a shift like that, or even better, against the Sounders. LAFC will need him and every other available player ready and at their best for that one.

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