With Los Angeles Football Club waiting out the coronavirus shutdown, then quietly training behind closed doors over the past several months, injury news has been hard to come by. Obviously, without games there’s no need to pester the club about injuries, but with LAFC’s first game scheduled to kick off in less than a week, when they take on the Houston Dynamo Monday evening, injuries and fitness are a key question once more.
With superstar and reigning MLS MVP Carlos Vela opting out of the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, his absence raises questions about who will replace him in the lineup. While LAFC head coach Bob Bradley didn’t commit to a specific player to play in Vela’s stead, he did offer insight on what could happen in Florida.
When asked about the fitness of the two central strikers on the roster, in Adama Diomande and Bradley Wright-Phillips, Bradley told reporters on a conference call Monday before the team departed for Orlando that both players are in training now but neither is ready to play 90 minutes.
Diomande broke his foot in preseason, while Wright-Phillips had surgery in the spring to repair a hernia. Neither player featured in LAFC’s opening four games of 2020 across all competitions.
Bradley even volunteered the information that Latif Blessing, who’s been firmly ensconced in midfield for a solid year, could move yet again and play in the forward line, with the midfield deeper than ever before with the additions of Francisco Ginella and Jose Cifuentes in the offseason.
In addition, Bradley said that newcomer Andy Najar is also training but also not prepared to play 90 minutes right now. Najar, signing on a free from Belgian club Anderlecht, had been out for quite a while with a knee injury.
So even with Bradley saying point blank none of Diomande, Wright-Phillips and Najar can play a full game, will we see these players in the MLS is Back Tournament? Assuming the tournament actually takes place, etc., I think so. In fact, with teams able to use five substitutes in a game, I wouldn’t be shocked if Dio and BWP split the time some or all of the games — could be 45 minutes each, could be 60 minutes and 30, etc. But considering they would otherwise occupy the same role and would seem to be able to play some, I don’t see why they couldn’t do a timeshare, in addition to rotating in Adrien Perez and perhaps also Blessing, too.
As for Najar, it sounds like if he can’t play close to a full game in Orlando, the right back would probably be brought on as a substitute. In that case, I would expect Tristan Blackmon to start at right back and Dejan Jakovic likely to remain in central defense, with the clear caveats that all of these players will likely be rotated during a compressed tournament.
So there you have it. Aside from Vela’s absence, Bradley didn’t say any other players would be out or opting out of the tournament, so there’s hopefully a nice healthy squad to rely upon in Orlando. We’ll keep you posted on more news as it drops.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.