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LAFC 2021 Player Postmortem: Brian Rodriguez

A year of maturing for the DP.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Minnesota United FC Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

2021 was a year of growth for Brian Rodriguez.

That’s true on a couple of levels. Rodriguez literally got older, albeit still a tender age at just 21, he got his first taste of European football, and he had to overcome the struggles that came with that after returning to a club he didn’t seem to want to come back to.

About a year ago, Rodriguez had a tantrum for the ages, going on any show he was invited on in Uruguay and claiming he was done with LAFC, forever! His petulance led to a move alright, and an intriguing one, as he was sent on loan to Spanish second-division side Almería. Basically, if they got promoted while he was there, Almería would purchase Rodriguez permanently.

I think it’s safe to say all parties wanted that to happen, but Almería faded down the stretch and Rodriguez struggled in Spain, getting benched at one point for immaturity. By the end of the season, it looked like Rodriguez was bound for a return to LAFC, and so it turned out to be.

Here’s the thing: Rodriguez did not go on strike after his loan ended even though he threatened to, he did not spout off on Spanish-language radio, he came back to LAFC and got to work. Whether he figured things out or someone finally put a helpful word in his ear is unclear, but Rodriguez came back to play and he arguably played better than he ever has with the black-and-gold.

Here are Rodriguez’s stats with LAFC in 2021:

Brian Rodriguez 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 15 13 1,023 4 2 24 11 1 0

Finally, Rodriguez started showing he was putting his talent together and able to contribute, and his brace against the LA Galaxy was undoubtedly the high point of his season.

You could argue this goal was LAFC’s very best in 2021, his combination of dribbling skills and the tight angle on the finish being one of the club’s best ever. And LAFC have a lot of great goals in their history.

Now, time for the however...

I think Rodriguez was much better, he seemed to shoulder the responsibility of picking up a struggling team, and he played better than he’s done with LAFC. Instead of holding back a high-firing attack, he was doing his part for the cause. But he couldn’t carry the team.

After Carlos Vela went down in August and barely featured the rest of the season, and after Diego Rossi went on his own loan to Europe, Cristian Arango carried the team. Rodriguez had his moments, to be sure, but he is not able to sustain a team for game after game. He can have moments of brilliance, even a top-notch game from time to time. He may be getting more consistent, but his contributions vary game to game.

I don’t think Rodriguez will ever be a player who’s battling for the Golden Boot, even in MLS. I think at 21 he still has plenty of growth and I see why teams want to take a chance on him. But he seems extremely streaky and that may never change.

It will also be interesting to see what happens with Rodriguez on the Uruguayan national team moving forward. With Oscar Washington Tabarez replaced as manager by Diego Alonso recently, will Rodriguez retain his place as a constant call-up and playing for his country more often than not? I would not be shocked if Alonso shakes things up and makes Rodriguez work a little harder for the selections. Conversely, Rodriguez could benefit if Alonso wants to move some of the (old) legends on, we’ll see.

I still think Rodriguez is eager to get to Europe and he seemed to buckle down and look to work for a permanent move over the second half of 2021. He’s under contract to LAFC for 2022, and while a transfer bid could come in at the January transfer window, I expect he’ll be here to start the next season. Hopefully he can continue to mature and develop a promising set of skills with the black-and-gold.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.