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LAFC 2021 Player Postmortem: Francisco Ginella

Midfielder took some lumps in 2nd season stateside.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what happened to Francisco Ginella in 2021.

When he arrived at LAFC ahead of the 2020 season, he was thrust into action right away, starting the club’s first-ever Concacaf Champions League game, on the road, in Mexico. The Uruguayan was fantastic, taking the role of the passing metronome. While there wasn’t a result on the night for LAFC in that game, it seemed like a very auspicious start for the midfielder.

Over the course of a bizarre and punishing 2020 season, it was obvious that Ginella hit a wall of sorts and with the depth the club had in midfield, it was little surprise he came in and out of the lineup over time.

But it also seemed like he could build on the initial promise this year. He didn’t necessarily fall apart, but he did demonstrate that progress is not always linear. Jose Cifuentes, who arrived alongside Ginella in 2020 and started his LAFC tenure slow, was probably LAFC’s most improved player in 2021 and took the lion’s share of the minutes away from Ginella, even though their skillsets are considerably different.

Here are Ginella’s stats in 2021:

Francisco Ginella 2021 LAFC Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 17 9 884 0 1 10 4 1 0

It’s worth noting as well that Ginella suffered a knee ailment down the stretch of the season and missed the final handful of games, which contributed in part to him playing about 300 fewer minutes in league play compared to 2020. Obviously, injuries happen.

But with Cifuentes emerging, Ginella found it tough sledding to be a regular in the lineup, even after Mark-Anthony Kaye’s trade to the Colorado Rapids in the summer. The big question is what happens next.

Ginella seems like the player most set to inherit Eduard Atuesta’s role on the field, with Atuesta’s transfer to Palmeiras finally official. Ginella, like Atuesta, seems to thrive at the “cultured passer” role, and while I think both players have been challenged to “toughen up” by Bob Bradley, Atuesta’s departure leaves some big shoes to fill for the player tasked with doing just that. Still, if Ginella is the successor, having him on the club for two years already may make the transition that little bit better, and perhaps he can take the reins better than expected.

At the same time, with a new manager coming in for 2022, it’s unclear what system or profile of player they’re going to use. Maybe Ginella would fit better under a new coach, maybe he’ll fit worse, time will tell. There’s also the uncertainty of the club’s feelings about him in general, as he was surprisingly left available in the Charlotte FC expansion draft. Ultimately, Charlotte took Tristan Blackmon and then flipped him, and maybe playing the strategy game, Ginella being an international player meant he was someone relatively safe to leave exposed, but it could also be a sign that the club may be wavering on his suitability moving forward, even though he is under contract.

So like many members of LAFC, it was a bit of a rocky year for Ginella. I still think he could really make a step up, potentially, but with the club awaiting a new head coach and some roster movement to come this offseason, we’ll have to see where the Uruguayan fits in the plans moving forward with the black-and-gold.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.