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LAFC 2020 player postmortem: Jesús David Murillo

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Center back was an immediate upgrade late in season.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Jesús David Murillo walked into a tough spot, albeit one with considerable promise, when he joined LAFC. Arriving on loan all the way in October, the Colombian defender was joining a team that desperately needed reinforcement in central defense after the inexplicable trade of Walker Zimmerman in preseason, and which had predictably struggled without their Best XI anchor throughout the campaign.

LAFC ended up reaching the playoffs with a couple games to spare, but for a team that presumed they would be contenders in 2020, they really couldn’t back that up, at least in MLS play.

And perhaps Murillo’s move had been in the works all the way back in February when the Zimmerman trade happened, and perhaps the coronavirus shutdown and disruption of the transfer market sidetracked the plan all along. Because actually, Murillo looked pretty, pretty good once he started playing.

Here are Murillo’s stats with LAFC in 2020:

Jesús David Murillo 2020 LAFC Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 5 5 405 0 1 2 0 1 0
MiB Knockouts 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Playoffs 1 1 73 0 0 0 0 0 0
CCL 3 3 268 0 0 1 1 1 0
Total 9 9 746 0 1 3 1 2 0

The 26-year-old was pressed into service as soon as he was available in mid-October, and he played all of LAFC’s final nine games across all competitions in 2020.

What did he bring? Murillo offered a couple obvious upgrades once he entered the lineup. First and foremost, Murillo showed obvious skills in the aerial game. He’s not scored yet on a set piece, but that could very well come in the future, but he was very good at cutting balls out of the box with a well-timed header, and his ability to contest balls in the air was sorely missed most of the season.

On top of that, Murillo’s energy and leadership were visible, even on TV. I think Eddie Segura has been a fantastic center back and will probably look even better in 2021, but Segura doesn’t bring the on-field vocal leadership, and Murillo does. The player would literally head an early cross 25 yards out of LAFC’s box, then clap and encourage his teammates to get ready for the next foray by the opponent.

And it worked. LAFC allowed three goals twice in nine games, and helped LAFC allow just four goals across three games against Liga MX opponents in the Concacaf Champions League final stages, and Murillo was on Concacaf’s CCL Team of the Season as a result of his performances in reaching the final. The numbers aren’t sparkling in isolation, necessarily, but considering the guy was helicoptered in from Colombia, it represented an immediate improvement in the back for LAFC.

So as a result, it was fantastic news that LAFC have acquired Murillo on a permanent deal after his loan last year from Independiente Medellín. Parts of LAFC’s roster are pretty well set, but bringing Murillo back was an absolute no-brainer. He was thrown into a pressure-packed environment and thrived, and there’s hope that with a less-frantic and improvised season, he can settle even more and help LAFC do more to shut things down in the back.

Murillo is at a good age, presumably he’s at a good price point, and now LAFC can work on getting back to true contender status in all competitions again in 2021. It’s not a huge sample size, but so far, Murillo looks like the real deal in black-and-gold.

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