One of the biggest surprises heading into Los Angeles Football Club’s opening Concacaf Champions League loss to Club León on Tuesday was midfielder Eduard Atuesta missing out entirely, the Colombian not even in the 18 for the match, an 18 which included two goalkeepers.
As speculation flew on social media over the absence — an injury? Is he being transferred away? — it turned out the simplest explanation was the right one, with team writer Vince La Rosa saying after the match Atuesta was held out for “load management” reasons after featuring substantially in South American Olympic qualifying.
Load management. He played more minutes than most of the other guys in a position that demands a lot. And over the course of less than 30 days. Have to take an individual approach to each player esp this early in the season.— Vince La Rosa (@LAFCvince) February 19, 2020
Ideally, any soccer team wants to be deep enough to afford even the best players the ability to monitor their workload and give them a night off when they are in the “red zone” performance-wise. And there’s a logic to holding out Atuesta — why risk him for one game, where presumably the chance of injury shoots up, putting him at risk for serious injury for the rest of the season?
The logic is there, but also a counterpoint: Players can get hurt at any time, obviously, and CCL is not a “regular” game. Would you hold out a top player for load management in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal or final? For MLS Cup final? Some coaches might, others would not. It was a calculated risk, it didn’t pay off, but then again, would Atuesta have dramatically changed the outcome of the game? We’ll never know, frankly.
Here’s more news for your Wednesday:
- CCL recap: Here’s our recap of the loss at León.
- CCL reaction: Here’s our initial analysis coming out of the game. This is La Rosa’s column on LAFC’s website after the match. Here’s Matt Doyle’s column on MLSsoccer.com (spoiler: He’s not bullish on LAFC reversing the series)
- Zimmerman speaks on trade: I give Walker Zimmerman credit, he is probably as bewildered as the rest of us as to why exactly he was traded, but he seems to roll with his move to Nashville SC, projected by most to struggle this year, in this interview reacting to the news. Also nice to hear some perspective on when these moves affect partners and families beyond the player, too.
- New fan code of conduct in MLS: A year after the controversy over the Iron Front symbol used in some MLS supporters’ groups imagery at games led, among other things, to a silent protest at a rivalry game between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders that seemed to embarrass the Timbers and MLS in particular, the Independent Supporters Council and league have agreed to a revised code of conduct in stadia. The new regulations are still somewhat ambiguous, but the ISC appeared satisfied to have some resolution to last year’s issues around the league.
Today’s question: With a night to sleep on it, have your feelings changed at all after LAFC’s loss on Tuesday? Let’s chat in the comments below.