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LAFC 2021 Player Postmortem: Bryce Duke

Young midfielder grows in season two.

Real Salt Lake v Los Angeles Football Club Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Bryce Duke returned for his second season with LAFC in 2021. In some ways, the 20-year-old made one of the biggest jumps on the squad.

When LAFC first signed him, the team had three clear starters in midfield — Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing — and two newcomers who seemed like future starters, in Francisco Ginella and Jose Cifuentes. As a result, the path to a real route to playing time seemed long and twisting for Duke.

But the Arizona native got some limited time in 2020 with so many players coming in and out of the rotation, and he built on that this year.

It was facilitated by his loan stint with Las Vegas Lights FC, LAFC’s reserve team, in the USL Championship. He played 1,000 minutes there, 12 starts, and scored a goal and three assists. More importantly, he stood out as the main protagonist in midfield for Las Vegas when he played there, showing a combination of quick footwork and swagger, drawing and conceding fouls and showing an edge that frankly was often lacking on LAFC’s squad.

To me, it looked like that loan spell helped Duke leverage more playing time with the first team and he played quite a bit down the stretch.

Here are Duke’s MLS stats in 2021:

Bryce Duke 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 3 453 0 3 6 1 0 0

The numbers don’t jump out, but three assists in a season where LAFC were far more stingy with goals scored in limited minutes is pretty good. But he seemed to grow the most in dealing with the pace of play and pretty much looking like he belonged.

Duke’s contract option was picked up for 2022, so we can presume he remains in the team’s plans moving forward, although that is an open question for every player with a new head coach coming in. But with Kaye getting traded away during the season, the depth chart ahead of Duke went down by one, and that could give him an opportunity. Obviously, it will depend on how many midfielders play, the coach’s preference and any other potential signings that come in, but he could find a bigger breakthrough next season.

Is he ready to start regularly as a midfielder? I don’t think so, not yet. I think Duke shows considerable promise, but the four players ahead of him seem like pretty clear starters ahead of him at this point. I think another season of growth and possibly divided time with a reserve team could do him good and give him a chance to get more minutes against fellow pros under his belt. In other words, he’s got promise but it’s not fully realized yet.

Still, as a young domestic player, he is rather valuable to have on the roster, in many ways. If he can continue to develop, that value will continue to shoot up. Time will tell.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.